Healthcare software refers to the software solutions used by healthcare organizations in managing clinical and administrative functions. Healthcare Software sees extensive application in all the operations that take place in the industry. Healthcare establishments now implement the use of software to carry out various managerial and financial tasks that come with running their companies.
This subset of management involves carrying out certain tasks. These tasks ensure that the patients who come into a healthcare institution can receive the care and the medications they need. Aspects like billing, pulling up patient records, insurance claims, and more are all possible using a single software. This has been vital to hospital management staff, who are plagued by the responsibility of managing all the aspects of the hospital.
In addition to this, the introduction of healthcare software in the supply chain is not a novel idea anymore. In fact, the implementation of AI in the procurement and management of inventory is no longer reserved for specific non-medical sectors only.
Challenges faced by the Management of Healthcare Inventory
The healthcare industry can face several problems with its procurement process as well as the management of inventory. The inventory or goods that hospitals and other institutions receive from suppliers are used in critical situations at times. Therefore, there are several regulations that procurement teams have to follow.
Let’s look into some problems or challenges faced by healthcare management teams at present:
- Varied Preferences
Doctors and other healthcare professionals often influence what kind of goods will be delivered by the supplier or vendor. In fact, pharmaceutical companies make it a point to market to doctors in an effort to make more sales. This means that doctors have preferences in terms of which medications they will prescribe to patients.
Due to this, the procurement teams will have to find the most affordable estimates for doctors. It can be a challenge to meet the preferences of the healthcare professionals while also ensuring the most profitable procurement deal.
- Quality Control
The procurement of equipment and medications has to be of a particular standard since it deals with life saving measures. Quality control plays a major role in the healthcare supply chain. Regulatory bodies put forward strict guidelines in an effort to reduce the chances of the utilization of inferior equipment.
The regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC are very much involved in what inventory is acceptable for use. In addition to medication, institutions have to comply with several standards placed on devices like Pacemakers, Heart valves, implants, and more. The long list of specifications put on these products can drastically increase the price. Therefore, an institution is under further constraints to get the required goods for a reasonable or desirable budget.
- Ban on Alternate Methods
When it comes to procurement strategies in other sectors, it is acceptable to outsource manufacturing and other processes. Given the strict compliance policy in the US, alternate sourcing options are not encouraged. There is no room for an institution to reduce the revenue going into the procurement if they want to attain approval from a regulatory body like the FDA. Therefore, there is a decrease in the number of options an institution may have to decrease procurement costs.
- Shortages of Products
Medical emergencies can be a taxing time for healthcare professionals and patients. The procurement team working in the background faces their fair share of challenges during these incidents. This shortage of inventory can be one of the most devastating aspects of dealing with emergencies. The traditional non-digitized procurement process can go on for several days from sending in order to receive the delivery of goods. During that time, the hospital will have to make do with a quickly reducing stock while the patients continue to increase.
- Theft and Illegal Peddling
Since there are many medications present in one place, it can be a target for illegal smuggling. The process of accounting for medications can be a tedious process that can be subject to human errors. Not to mention, this process is monotonous as well.
In fact, in many cases, the process of manually accounting for inventory falls on overworked nurses and other employees. The employees in charge of carrying out these tasks are underpaid and may resort to unlawful acts to get by. There is a lack of tracking systems in the stocking up process carried out in medical institutions. Therefore, there is a high chance that theft of these medications or equipment can take place.
- Variation in Inventory Types
The storage areas present in a hospital or a large healthcare institute have a wide variety of goods. It can range from large equipment to smaller items bought in bulk. In addition to this, there are also miscellaneous items that may not cater to anyone’s medical needs. For example, several healthcare establishments also provide cafeteria services. This will mean perishable items like food and beverage. This variation in the inventory can make the process of management difficult.
- Hidden Costs
Companies can face several hidden costs when it comes to stocking up on medical essentials and other medically related items. In addition to the actual price of the goods, there are also the costs that accompany the storage of these items.
Therefore, the cost of storing inventory is a necessary expense that will further add to the burden of the establishment’s finances. In addition to this, there are also distribution costs as establishments that have several branches will need to transport medication to various locations.
What Do Healthcare Software Offer Institutions?
Looking at all the challenges mentioned above, it is clear that the healthcare supply chain and procurement process are complex and expensive. There are many parties involved in the entire chain. However, digitizing the supply chain can reduce half of these problems at a reasonable price. To understand how healthcare software can do this, take a look at the features it possesses:
- Order Tracking
With a digital solution, an establishment is capable of collecting vendor data, orders, expected delivery dates, and more in one place. Legal information like contracts and requisition approvals are digitized and stored safely on the platform. It is also easy to track the amount or quantities of goods being brought in when the delivery arrives with this software.
- Warehouse Management
The software helps to keep track of the existing inventory, and in case there is a need for a round of replenishment. Maintaining accurate reports will ensure that the management team will notice when it is time to ask for replacements and new items. In some cases, the process of adding.
- Vendor/Supplier Relationship Management
Communication between vendors, suppliers, and the enterprise will be much more seamless since it is digital. This will also be more effective during the situations that call for emergency imports. This is because the organization can simply send in a request to the supplier of their choice in a matter of minutes. The quality checks that occur upon delivery can be partially automated, and feedback or other information can be relayed easily to the vendors.
- Traceability of Medications
The inventory that comes from the vendors and suppliers can also be traced. This is because of the presence of the barcodes and other items that may be present on the goods. Therefore, in case a certain product is needed at a specific time, it is easy to track it down and use it. Everything from pharmaceuticals to surgical supplies can undergo tracing using this software.
- Pricing Analytics
Finding the best price for good quality goods is another aim of a modern healthcare procurement strategy. By reducing the spending on the inventory, the establishment is capable of reimbursing the staff or using funds to develop the hospital or clinic. It can decrease the chances of being overcharged. All analytics regarding the cost of the goods will be accessible on the platform right from the manufacturer to the end customer.
- Risk Management
By optimizing the supply chain, an establishment is able to prepare for times of emergency. For example, the increased communication between the manufacturer and the institution, multichannel pathways for incoming goods, and so on. These features can drastically reduce the time of waiting to receive life-saving equipment and drugs during large-scale trauma events. Thus, an establishment is reducing the risk of not being prepared for emergencies.
The Benefits of Implementing a Healthcare Software
It is no secret that the introduction of software in the procurement process can greatly increase the efficiency and reduce the cost. This happens irrespective of the sector to which the enterprise belongs. The primary reason is that this software can reduce the number of individuals carrying out repetitive tasks like tracking usage.
However, it does not stop there. The implementation of a procurement software can also provide the following benefits:
- Budget Management
One of the first steps in implementing a good procurement strategy is to decide on a budget. However, when it comes to procuring healthcare goods, sticking to this budget can be very challenging. The reason being that patient needs can vary. In addition to this, the problem of hidden costs also plagues every organization. Therefore, the software can help find the right vendor that will sell the required goods within the budget.
- Data-Driven Inventory Stocking
The inventory tracking system makes it possible to balance stock levels. An organization will be saving a significant amount if they invest in goods that are necessary at the moment. In addition to this, an organization that possesses several branches can simultaneously be on a single platform. In addition to this, the software can artificially simulate what-if scenarios or emergencies to show how prepared the hospital or establishment is.
- Recalling and Tracking Expiration Dates
Keeping track of the expiration dates of medications is an essential task. The reason being that administering expired drugs could potentially harm the patients. As per the rules of the FDA and other regulatory bodies, expired goods must be disposed of safely. The disposal should prevent anyone else from gaining access to the drugs. Therefore, the software makes it possible to track expiration dates of the inventory through the extensive databases. If some drugs are required to be recalled, it is possible to do so with the tracking software.
- Lifecycle Management
This software also ensures that the organization is aware of the lifecycle of each product. This can be achieved with the use of the lifecycle management tool. This tool can generate a “First In and First Out” or FIFO system. Meaning, the organization can prevent the unnecessary waste of materials and medications.