Mary Baxter, MBA, RPh
healthcare industry expert
Quality and service often improve dramatically at the same time. Today, with so much pressure on costs, innovative pharmacies are using efficiency gains to elevate their bottom lines and their strategic importance inside hospital systems.
Where can a pharmacy find opportunities to improve efficiency? Our answer: Look everywhere -- starting first with your purchasing, inventory, staffing and operating procedures.
To start, assess your pharmacy's performance against industry standards and best practices. This will help identify areas of improvement, and provide industry standards for key metrics to track progress after changes are made. Monitoring progress and measuring results are the roadmap for the long, never-ending journey toward optimizing efficiency.
Cardinal Health supports and operates hundreds of hospital pharmacies across the country, helping to drive efficiencies in everything from workflow and pharmacy design to inventory management and automation. Whether it's optimizing inventory controls or implementing purchasing best practices, it's our experience that there are hidden opportunities to substantially improve efficiencies in virtually any hospital pharmacy.
After assessing your pharmacy's individual areas to improve, get to work on the gritty details. Some efficiency opportunities that stand out include:
Reduce time spent managing your inventory by reducing touch points, controlling costs and reducing waste. Some key steps and best practices:
Pharmaceutical inventories often comprise one of the biggest line items in a hospital's budget. That's why optimizing savings from Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) contracts can deliver such a substantial return when it comes to improving efficiency and cost effectiveness. Some key steps:
Most hospital pharmacies will practice these policies to some extent already. Yet it's been our experience that many hospital pharmacies have huge, untapped optimization opportunities. Even efficient pharmacies often generate noteworthy savings from further refining purchasing strategies in a systematic fashion - on average, we see cost savings ranging from 50 to 90 basis points.
In today's environment, hospital pharmacy leaders are expected to expand service levels and programs with limited resources and staffing. Optimization of pharmacy productivity is key to enabling safe and cost-effective medication use processes. An evaluation of your pharmacy's staffing needs and productivity should include pharmacy staffing, medication order processing and distribution systems. It should also include multiple pharmacy productivity variables, instead of merely doses filled and orders processed. For example, consider how the following factors impact your team's staffing needs and productivity:
Each hospital has its own unique opportunities to improve staffing efficiencies. These successful examples from demonstrate innovative ways to fix inefficiencies and do "more with less:"
Last but not least, fully leveraging the pharmacy's automated dispensing systems has the potential to improve pharmacy productivity and inventory management, while minimizing diversion, and enhancing patient safety. As a result, pharmacy leaders can reduce nursing time spent on managing stock outs, improve inventory management, and redeploy pharmacy technician time otherwise spent on vend-to-refill trips. In fact, for one client, we were able to redeploy 800 technician hours per month as a result of optimizing their automation.
Hospital pharmacies have many reasons to "Fix Inefficiencies," to leverage themselves as a strategic asset. Stepping back from the demands of everyday pharmacy life can be challenging. Reducing waste requires analysis and creative thinking. The effort is worth it. In truth, it's essential. In today's healthcare environment, a hospital pharmacy needs to do all it can to be a strategic business asset for the entire hospital system, much more than a support service for other medical professionals.