Easing the impact of drug shortages on hospital pharmacy operations

Ramsey ChambersBlog

Drug shortages are an unavoidable fact of life for hospital pharmacies. Whether due to bad demand planning on the part of the manufacturer, factory shutdowns due to compliance issues, recalls, or an ordering snafu on the part of purchasing, pharmacy staff frequently find themselves without the preferred formulary items they need to keep the pharmacy running smoothly. Some recent shortages have had such a broad impact that the FDA issued guidance allowing pharmacies to use any remaining inventory beyond the manufacturer’s expiration date.

The Breadline by NCinDC on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

How automation has made shortages more painful

In addition to dealing the challenges of finding an acceptable alternative and communicating with different stakeholders within the hospital, pharmacy staff have to reconfigure any automation solution that touches that medication. Staff must then repeat the process to undo the changes once the shortage is resolved. This tedious and time-consuming issue was one of the top cited issues in last year’s Hospital Pharmacy Operations Report.

Pharmacy automation solutions don’t have to be difficult to manage

Many pharmacies have an entire FTE allocated to formulary maintenance for automation systems
At Kit Check, we strive to make our solutions as easy to use as possible, and this commitment extends to those occasions when medications in your kits, trays, or ADC drawers go on shortage. Here are some examples:

Smart Segment support for generic drug mappings
Smart Segments allow managers to “set it and forget it” by allowing tray pockets to be defined by generic product (drug+concentration+package size) or controlled at the individual NDC level. As new NDCs get added to the formulary, they’ll automatically work in qualified Smart Segments without additional system management.

Smart Segment support for alternative fill options
Smart Segments also allow managers to define acceptable alternatives for those situations when you have to temporarily adjust par levels extend the life of your inventory, substitute a different package size or perhaps a different drug. When there is an active shortage, the system intelligently knows when a tray is “ready” and provides the user with guidance on how to appropriately stock the tray given all approved configurations.

Medi-Span powered formulary
We integrated Medi-Span into the core of our application. When you need to add a new drug to your formulary you don’t have to manually type in a ton of information. Just scan the barcode of the drug and we instantly add the item to your formulary using the industry leading MediSpan drug library.

Expiration extensions
In some shortage situations, the FDA will allow pharmacies to use drugs beyond their manufacturer expiration date. With Kit Check, a manager can quickly type in the NDC and lot number(s) affected and specify the new expiration date. The system automatically extends the previously recorded expiration date across Kit Check’s reporting suite so that your staff doesn’t have to manage exceptions on a day-to-day basis.

Don’t forget to evaluate system management costs

Hospital pharmacies are under constant pressure to do more with less alongside an ever-expanding scope of responsibility. Many of the automation technologies available fail to deliver on the efficiencies promised due in large part to the effort needed to maintain those systems over time. As vendors aren’t going to volunteer this information during their sales demos; pharmacy leaders should press potential vendors during the evaluation process to prove how easy or difficult it will be to manage the system over time.

Interested in learning more about how easy it is to use Kit Check? Contact us.