3 Top-Notch Best Practices for Receiving Pharmacy Inventory

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Mar 30, 2016 9:00:00 AM


Mr. Henry is at the counter, waiting on a refill for his blood-thinning medication while your fill tech searches through your stocked inventory. After several minutes she brings you a stock bottle with six pills in it, asking if you know if there is anymore. You take the bottle and check the shelves yourself, certain that you ordered more, but you come up empty handed. Mr. Henry isn’t exactly excited when you issue him a short fill and let him know that you’ll have the rest of his prescription in tomorrow, but he takes his medication and leaves.

When you go back to your station you pull up your most recent order form to your wholesaler. You see that you ordered the medication. Feeling vindicated, you’re now angry. Where is that medication? Did it not come in? Did you receive it, but it was misplaced somewhere in the pharmacy? Did you already use it all?

I’m sure you can think of a couple of different solutions in this case of the missing medication. It’s quite possible that you’re thinking of a time where this very thing happened in your pharmacy. The truth of the matter is that incidents like this happen, and the only way to reduce their impact is by keeping a close eye on the inventory coming into your pharmacy.

To help you better stay on top of it, here are three best practices for receiving pharmacy inventory.

EDI Ordering and Barcode Scanning

If you’re pharmacy software is capable, we recommend that you get set up for EDI ordering as soon as possible. An EDI interface allows you to order inventory through your pharmacy software. Once your wholesaler has received that order, they will send an order confirmation (EDI 855), detailing what you ordered and what they will be sending you based on that order.

This is the most accurate and efficient way to receive inventory. It removes the aspect of human error, in addition to letting you know the substitutions and generics you will receive before inventory ever arrives at your pharmacy.

If you do not have the opportunity to use EDI ordering, we recommend that as you receive inventory you use a barcode scanner to scan the inventory as you receive it. This will reduce the risk of human error by manually entering quantities into your system.

This is a more time consuming way to receive inventory, but it also allows the receiving staff members to see all the medication coming in and check it against the order form.

Track-and-Trace Requirements

Last year new track-and-trace regulations were put in place, stating that all pharmacies must have the proper information on the inventory they receive from wholesalers. This includes lot-level transaction information, history, and statements on their shipments for up to six years.

Luckily, wholesalers were made to start collecting this information before the pharmacy, so in an effort to help out the pharmacy the major wholesalers have created portals to help you keep track of this information in case of an audit.

If you’re not already utilizing one of the portals for access to track-and-trace information, you should talk with your wholesale representative. It can save a lot of time and effort on your part.

You can learn more about these track-and-trace requirements here.

Establish a Policy for Receiving Inventory

Another part of the track-and-trace requirements is that the pharmacy must create standard operating procedures for receiving inventory. Having set procedures in place, can greatly reduce mistakes. If you’re not sure where to start with creating procedures here are some ideas:

  • Have one or two staff members receiving all of the inventory: This could be you and your fill tech, or maybe the other pharmacist. Having only select people receive inventory allows for accountability. In case something is missing or an error was made you know who to go to for reconciliation.
  • Steps for receiving: Whether or not you’re EDI ordering or scanning inventory as it’s received, outline the steps one should take when receiving inventory and make sure your receiving staff are following these steps.
  • Tote unpacking procedures: Should all totes be unpacked, all medication accounted for, and then placed in the correct location in your stock? Would it be better to do one tote at a time? Whatever you choose, write it out. Let your staff know how things should be done. If it’s done the same way each time, there is less room for error.

Using these best practices when receiving inventory can help you remain compliant with regulations and greatly reduce the amount of unsatisfied customers in your pharmacy.  Having a pharmacy software partner to help optimize your customer experience with pharmacy inventory practices is key.


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