As an operations manager of Community Pharmacies in Maine, Amelia Arnold says having an inventory management system in place helping to oversee all of her locations has been a lifeline.
“I would feel lost without Cardinal Health™ Inventory Manager (CIM),” she said. “It’s one thing to have a dollar amount on your inventory balance sheet. It’s a whole other thing to see how that inventory is broken out. It gives us that visibility without having to walk the stores and see what they have on their shelves.”
Independent pharmacy owners recognize the importance of minimizing excess inventory, especially in today’s competitive market. Dwindling reimbursements, changing government regulations and manufacturing shortages in the wake of COVID-19 have all contributed to making improving and maintaining business metrics challenging.
However, many independent pharmacies are looking at CIM to create a more balanced inventory — a move that may help increase cash flow, improve patient service levels and reduce excess inventory sitting on shelves.
How it works
Driven by automated order points and sophisticated reporting capabilities, CIM is a web-based program that helps pharmacies manage prescription inventory by combining “just in time” replenishment with dedicated inventory consultation and support.
The benefits may be even more extensive for pharmacies with multiple locations, like Community Pharmacies in Maine. Arnold says CIM creates a level of visibility that allows operations managers to oversee the inventory at multiple pharmacies all at once using an additional tool, Inventory Exchange, that can be added to CIM. This tool provides Arnold with the help she needs to initiate the exchange of inventory from one pharmacy to another — avoiding excess product and costly returns.
“Each time we open a new store, we immediately open it on CIM,” Arnold said. “It really allows us to help stores control their inventory. We like to make sure their inventory is at the levels they need, and they are not missing return windows. There’s high value in that information.”
Improvements in inventory processes
The need for this feature became even more evident for many pharmacies that grappled with drug shortages and unprecedented circumstances early in the COVID-19 pandemic. For Arnold and the nine pharmacies she managed, CIM helped her pharmacists and technicians more efficiently manage inventory levels so they could focus on their primary priority: patient care.
“Before, we would walk the shelves and look at stickers,” Arnold said. “Now, this saves someone from having to touch every single medication. It saves so much time from having to touch so many items and gives you a reporting functionality to identify your opportunities.”
At times, Arnold says the information she received was surprising.
Considering that the pharmacy’s nine locations are spread out across the state — taking several hours to drive from the southernmost store to the northernmost store — not having access to that information can be costly in both product and time.
“In one day, I can look at the inventory for all nine stores without having to spend hours and hours in the car,” Arnold said.
An invaluable addition
Since implementing the CIM platform in 2015, Community Pharmacies in Maine has seen a decrease in excess inventory and an increase in turns.
“It’s not uncommon for our stores to have 18 turns,” she said. “It has saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars since changing to CIM, and we’ve been able to maintain that.
CIM has also offered a benefit on which Arnold says you can’t place a dollar amount.
“With COVID-19, our pharmacy staff has been stressed to the max,” she said. “This allows me to assist them without having to ever go there. If they have staff out sick, this allows someone else to assist with the inventory management. Without CIM, I wouldn’t know what they really needed.”