Eric Besse, VP of Business Information Solutions, Besse Medical
Inventory Management Technology: The Key to Better Patient Care
Inventory management (IM) systems are an essential part of any successful physician practice. They can help practices safely store and track medications, using technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) to closely monitor quantities of medications as they move in and out of storage. IM systems serve as an extension of a practice’s ordering platform. They facilitate medication shipments that maintain optimal inventories, which helps the practice ensure patient access while also managing costs and cash flow. As a quality and safety tool, some IM systems preserve the viability of temperature-sensitive products and ensure they are being dispensed in a timely manner.
In today’s dynamic healthcare environment, however, IM systems can do so much more. Practices can leverage IM systems to support value-based reimbursement needs, protect budgets, streamline disparate technology systems, and—ultimately— achieve greater clinical integration.
Challenges facing physician practices
At first, physician practices struggled to reconcile drug units purchased versus drug units billed and found themselves bogged down with paperwork. IM systems became the first line of defense. Today, with the development of value-based care models, physician practices are increasingly being challenged to maximize efficiencies and lower costs while continuously improving quality of care. All the while, treatments are getting more complex and patient needs are changing.
"Practices can leverage IM systems to support value-based reimbursement needs, protect budgets, streamline disparate technology systems, and— ultimately—achieve greater clinical integration"
Value-based reimbursement models make tracking the granular details of medication dispenses—including diagnosis, timing and dosage, as well as what happens after the dispense, such as billing and reimbursement—even more important. It’s also critical that practices collect data on patient adherence and outcomes, help patients enroll in manufacturer access programs, and maintain adequate patient engagement and retention. These tasks, however, often involve labor-intensive processes that are performed manually by the physician, which reduces their time to spend with patients. Today’s top IM technologies can significantly alleviate these pain points, create more time for patient care, improve practice performance and support patient outcomes.
Better integrated practice management
Sophisticated IM systems create simplified processes that promote fully integrated practice operations. They provide greater documentation and additional quality checks by associating each product with a unique serial number and alerting practices when a product is removed from storage, dispensed or nearing expiration. Additionally, product inventory tracking ability is essential for those drugs with shortage status. IM technologies can also communicate with existing systems, such as electronic medical or health records and practice management systems, to seamlessly integrate their data and maximize their value.
With each dispense, IM systems collect, update and retain detailed clinical and financial patient information, which allows practices to easily track the product-to-patient journey and the associated costs and outcomes. In value-based care models, this type of data feeds directly into reimbursement. Data collection becomes particularly important in certain branches of medicine, such as oncology, where roughly half the population is Medicare and reimbursement for Part B drugs continues to be scrutinized.
Furthermore, IM systems can enable the type of enhanced monitoring required for a large multi-location practice group with centralized purchasing to be diligent in controlling carrying cost. When certain IM systems integrate with their PM or EMR, the practice can leverage their patient schedule or medical orders to facilitate demand ordering, which can compare the on-hand inventory to integrated clinical data to determine the exact needs of their patients coming in for treatments. With this report prompting purchase recommendations, a practice can make real-time decisions to transfer inventory among its group or schedule replenishment orders based on the forecast, which ultimately reduces inventory costs and improves cash flow.
Streamlining the patient experience
IM systems help practices digitize the patient experience, finding critical data points that track the patient journey and streamline operations to reduce paperwork burdens. Each dispense is automatically associated with the patient’s appropriate financial information, and the system tracks whether the patient or their primary and secondary payers were billed for the medication and when payment was received.
Some of today’s IM systems can also connect patients to treatment more quickly by automating processes historically done by hand, such as patient access program enrollment, benefits investigation, co-pay assistance and prior authorizations. With patient access programs, for example, IM systems can pre-identify all the information a manufacturer may need to enroll a patient, and alert the physician in real-time that there is a digital form to complete. Communicating with the patient’s EHR, the IM system will then pre-populate as much of the form as possible with the patient data already on file. Finally, it acquires signatures from both patient and physician on the spot, and electronically submits them to the manufacturer for approval. By easing and expediting communication across the healthcare continuum, this process increases speed-to-therapy, lessens risk of human error and provides a better patient experience.
Above all else, IM systems facilitate a healthcare experience that values speed, efficiency, convenience and mobility—principles that today’s patients have come to expect. Not only does this enable practices to deepen their relationships with patients, but it can also play a significant role in retaining them for years to come.
The ultimate value of next-generation IM systems
Next-generation IM systems can transform both patient and physician experiences for the better, alleviate typical pain points and help practices overcome the challenges of a changing healthcare landscape. As interest in value-based care models continues to rise, the ability to track patient information, including engagement, adherence and outcomes data, becomes increasingly important for proper reimbursement. The right IM technology can not only integrate with other systems to help support this data but it can also serve as the hub, allowing a practice to more effectively manage their patients, streamline communications across the supply chain, and add to their bottom line.