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Medication Inventory Management 2018
How Well Are Vendors Positioned to Close the Gaps?

author - Sam Eaquinto
Sam Eaquinto
April 26, 2018 | Read Time: 6  minutes

Enterprise Medication Inventory Management (EMIM) continues to be a challenge for providers as they attempt to aggregate data from disparate systems to provide actionable intelligence for efficient medication inventory management. This report will highlight the relative strengths and weaknesses of medication inventory management solutions. Including how broadly they are deployed within healthcare organizations, with what solutions they are successfully interfaced, and their relative strengths on driving optimal workflows and providing actionable intelligence.

Industry Context: Common Inventory Management Approaches

Single Facility

In addition to the central pharmacy, organizations may be managing acute and/or ambulatory patient care–area inventories on a single software platform.

common inventory management approaches single facility

Multiple Facilities, Multiple Software Instances

This essentially replicates the single-facility approach at disparate facilities within an organization. This approach lacks a single consolidated software platform linking the disparate databases.

common inventory management approaches multiple facilities multiple software instances

Multiple Facilities, Single Software Instance

This approach aggregates data from disparate facilities and systems within an organization into a single database for normalization and analytics. _____________________________

common inventory management approaches multiple facilities single software instance
common inventory management approaches approach distribution by vendor

Single Software Instance Advantages

“We are able to increase our turns, decrease the amount of stock that we keep at institutions, and distribute the medications between our facilities. If we have a slow-moving item, we know that we can stock it at one facility. If we ever need that item at our other facilities, we can easily go through our enterprise server and find where the item is located.” —Pharmacy Manager

common inventory management approaches portfolio summary

Omnicell and BD Strongest for Inventory Tracking, Swisslog Healthcare for Third-Party Integration

Accurate inventory tracking is foundational to perpetual inventory management, and interoperability across disparate systems is a critical facilitator for organizations wanting visibility into inventory counts and locations from the loading dock to the point of use. Yet no vendor excels at both pieces today. For example, Omnicell offers intuitive inventory-tracking tools that incorporate medication data from other Omnicell products. However, customers report a lack of data flowing from third-party systems due to lacking interfaces, high interface costs, or other challenges. On the other hand, Swisslog Healthcare customers report few interface problems but say tracking tools don’t account for manual changes in other systems efficiently enough. BD falls in the middle—customers report good tracking tools and relatively good third-party interoperability. ARxIUM customers struggle with manual adjustments and cycle counts in other systems as the user interface requires manual rather than automated reconciliation. Integration with the EMR, cabinets, and GL can also be problematic.

inventory tracking vs third party integration

“RxWorks Pro is great at carousel inventory in terms of the interfacing and usability. Everything is fantastic. The workflow of the carousels is great, but for non-carousel inventory, there could be problems if I wanted to set up a shelf or refrigerators. There might not be an interface issue since ARxIUM does have clients who have interfaces with Omnicell tools, but I don't think I would be able to tell the system that a certain drug is sitting on the fifth shelf of the carousel.” —Pharmacy Manager

BD and Swisslog Healthcare Strong for Central Pharmacy Workflows

Workflow management builds on inventory tracking to drive operational efficiencies through fill prioritization, workload balancing, restocking, and site-to-site reallocation of medications. BD customers say their system’s configurability and ease of use have helped improve visibility into various use patterns. This helps steer technicians to where they need to go and reduce churn associated with tracking down medications. Swisslog Healthcare customers also point to strong workflows helping them be more efficient by helping technicians with daily tasks such as filling medication orders. Omnicell meets needs for smaller customers well, but a few larger organizations feel the solution is too basic without purchasing extra add-ons. Customers wish they had more input and guidance from ARxIUM during the setup, which has led to some subpar implementations with less-efficient workflows.

workflow efficiency rating

“The Swisslog solution does very well with driving workflow efficiencies. It allows us to trigger different machines at different times, which lets us pull medication efficiently. We have four towers in our facility, and we pull everything on all four towers at one time for the night-shift employees instead of having to pull from one machine at a time.” —Pharmacy Manager

Actionable Reporting: Future Platforms Bring Promise of Improved Analytics

Vendors have yet to deliver on their biggest opportunity—optimizing inventory levels and operational efficiencies within organizations through advanced analytics. Current reporting solutions aren’t meeting the needs of progressive organizations today for readily visible, actionable, valuable intelligence. Across the board, each vendor has customers who say it takes a lot of effort to customize reports, and each has customers who report getting little value from the reports.

“We are missing reports that help us optimize our inventory. [BD's] product just kind of tells us that we have problems, but it does not give us proactive ways to fix things. We have to figure out how to fix our inventory. Our inventory turnover isn’t high enough. We have a lot of products that reach their expiration dates too frequently. The system does not tell us the optimal amount of medications to keep on hand.” —Pharmacy Director

actionable reporting rating

Additionally, Omnicell, Swisslog Healthcare, and ARxIUM customers say the static reports can be difficult to interpret and glean meaningful information from.

Most vendors have announced or released new versions, and these bear the promise of enhanced reporting functionality. Early perceptions of BD’s and Omnicell’s (improved reporting and inventory tracking) platforms and Swisslog Healthcare’s platform have been optimistic in KLAS interviews. Adoption is in the early stages, and as enough organizations deploy the GA versions, KLAS plans to report on the progress being made.

BD and Omnicell Relationships Driving Confidence; ARxIUM and Swisslog Healthcare Customers Uncertain

Though customers note inadequacies in most inventory management solutions, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Most BD and Omnicell customers with knowledge of their road maps are confident about the future. This confidence is grounded in the relationships with their vendor and optimism over future development and road maps more so than in the historical development of their inventory management products. Conversely, Swisslog Healthcare customers experienced stronger historical development with Talyst, but due to the recent acquisition, many express uncertainty around the future of the product and its overall place in Swisslog Healthcare’s portfolio. Most ARxIUM customers’ confidence is low despite some communication as they have seen too little development since the acquisition of ABTG three years ago. For many provider organizations, the destination is clear (e.g., reduced waste, inventory optimization, improved operations, and patient safety), and now it is up to the vendors to get them there.

confidence in vendors development road map

“I am somewhat confident in Omnicell’s road map. What the vendor presented to us recently was different than what they had presented previously. We provided feedback on the road map, and they are now getting to the new priorities for what to put in the software next. . . . They have great dreams and want to do big things, but we had to tell them the foundational things they would need to work on first.” —Pharmacy Director

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This material is copyrighted. Any organization gaining unauthorized access to this report will be liable to compensate KLAS for the full retail price. Please see the KLAS DATA USE POLICY for information regarding use of this report. © 2024 KLAS Research, LLC. All Rights Reserved. NOTE: Performance scores may change significantly when including newly interviewed provider organizations, especially when added to a smaller sample size like in emerging markets with a small number of live clients. The findings presented are not meant to be conclusive data for an entire client base.