Ways to improve efficiency of your pharmacy
Being a Pharmacist, you encounter daily problems as you perform your routine work that includes managing staff, customers, and cashflow but most importantly you face the issue of managing the optimum level of stock at a given point in time, storage conditions and managing expired products. The best way to look at the inventory is to think of it as an investment or “money on the shelf”. An overstocked pharmacy has a risk of expiring medicines, high inventory cost, and limited storage space. Whereas an understocked pharmacy cannot fulfil the needs of its customers, foregoing the prescriptions. Hence it is vital that the pharmacy neither carries excess inventory nor goes short, but the key is to maintain adequate stock levels at all times.
Some of the ways suggested to manage inventory are as follows:
- Stock availability: One of the factors that you should keep in mind is the usual visit frequency of order booker and supply timelines of your supplier (Distributor/Wholesaler). It varies from supplier to supplier. The better you know your supplier visit time, the better the chances of optimum stock management. Another important aspect that should be considered here is the ability of a supplier to give stock on credit.
- Stock demand: There are multiple factors that affect the demand, some of which are listed below:
- Demand of the product by a customer to fulfil their need
- You should also be able to gauge your fast-moving products, so you know what the must fills in the store are.
- Medicines that are usually short in market and takes longer to be replenished should be stocked well in quantity so as to meet the foreseeable demand.
- Seasonal diseases: The medicines that have seasonal surges in the demand.
- Epidemic: Any spreading epidemic diseases which have a growing demand.
- Stock projections: You should be able to know how much stock to order seeing the past trend and other above stated factors in mind. Always have an optimum buffer stock which is the minimum stock required to be maintained on the shelf before new stock comes in.
- Systems involved in stock ordering: Depending on whether the medicine has a frequent demand or very frequent demand, following systems of inventory ordering should be in place:
- Minimum stock level: Place the order to supplier when stock of required medicines falls below a certain quantity. You should know that minimum stock level specially for the medicine having high demand
- Just In Time (JIT) stock level: Ordering stock only when it is in demand. This is for drugs which are not commonly used.
Having a system for receiving stock ensures the quality of purchasing. When the goods are delivered, the receiver should make several checks.
- Check if the package is meant for your pharmacy
- Check supplier’s invoice for the order
- Start unpacking and check if the items are the same as invoiced / ordered
- Check for damaged or expired items. If any item is damaged, return it to supplier
- Send receiving items to the storage area
- File receiving invoice
STOCK MANAGEMENT TIPS
To ensure maintaining optimum level of stocks, the following tips can come in handy:
- Turnover should be calculated
- Set minimum targets of stocks
- Stock holdings should be reviewed on a regular basis
- Record of each item to be maintained on a card/ sheet with the following fields:
a) Name of item
c) Pack Size
d) Batch Number
e) Sources of Supply
f) Quantity Ordered
g) Date and Quantity Received
h) Details of issues
i) Cumulative stock balance
And if the items are wrong, expired, damaged or missing the following steps may be taken:
- Note the date and time when wrong, expired, damaged or missing items are received
- Inform and discuss with the supplier the problem and ask the supplier to send the missing items on the next delivery
- Send back the wrong, expired or damaged items and document the receiving.
STORAGE OF MEDICINES
The storage of medicines in a pharmacy is extremely important. Good storage practices include but are not limited to the following:
- Temperature of the storage area should be monitored to ensure compliance with storage requirements.
- Storage should be kept clean and free of any spillage or contaminants. Pests might be attracted to these.
- Keep medicines in a neat and orderly manner to help the staff run the pharmacy and serve the patients better.
- Classify Medicines: Store similar items on the shelves. Medicines with
i) the same route of administration (injectables, tablet, external)
ii) form of preparation (tablets and syrups)
- Should be store on the same shelves.
- If there are three or more shelves in the pharmacy, the medicines should ideally be stored in the following manner:
- Top shelf: Tablets, capsules, spansules
- Middle shelf: Liquids, including injectables and ointments. (Do not put products for internal and external use next to each other)
- Bottom shelf: Supplies such as surgical items, laboratory supplies etc.
To minimize the errors, the following steps may be taken:
- Drugs with look-alike names or similar packaging should not be stored in close proximity to each other in the storage area
- Alphabetized drug storage can cause inadvertent mix-ups. They should be kept separately.
- In addition, segregate any “high-alert” medicines that may be used in the practice (e.g., sedating agents or anesthetics).
- A staff member should be assigned to routinely check items that have expired. These items should be returned to supplier as per their expiry return policy
- The storage area should be maintained at temperatures between 14 and 30 degrees centigrade
- It should not be cramped
- Shelves should be arranged with labels facing forward
- The area should be well-lit making it easier for the staff to read labels
The medicines can be managed with one of the following methods at a pharmacy:
- FEFO – First Expiry, First Out: Medicines with later expiry dates should be kept behind the current stock so that medicines with early expiry dates are utilized first.
- FIFO – First In, First Out: If the products do not have an expiry, the product received earlier should be placed in the front and those received later, should be place at the back and sold in the same preference.
- Patel, Aarti et. al., Practical Pharmacy for Developing Countries, John Snow, Inc./DELIVER in collaboration with World Health Organization, issue 21, January 2010. Available at: http://www.who.int/management/resources/drugs/practicalpharmacy21b.pdf.
Zaida Rehman, Rukhsana Parvin, Medication Errors Associated with Look-alike/Sound-alike Drugs: A Brief Review Journal of Enam Medical College, Vol 5 No 2 May 2015