2010 was a terrible year for hospitals. Across the country, their stock of more than 200 types of medicine fell to dangerously low levels. Almost every hospital had at least one drug shortage and 82 percent delayed treatments for patients because they didn’t have the medicine they needed, according to an American Hospital Association survey.
A simple thing like having enough medicine in stock could mean life or death for patients. But the problem is that drug prices are increasing, and hospitals are struggling to keep costs down while also making sure patients get the treatment they need.
Why are drug prices increasing? There are several reasons: Rising inflation, quality control issues, manufacturing delays and discontinued brands. The price of almost everything is steadily increasing, so it’s no surprise medicine is getting more expensive. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that drug manufacturers are also struggling to keep up with demand and maintain quality control at the same time. Many are even discontinuing certain drugs in favor of more expensive options.
Another problem is that many hospitals don’t have good order management systems in place.
“Three of 4 hospitals report that they rarely or never receive advance notice of drug shortages and are often not informed of the cause or the expected duration of the shortage.” Why don’t many hospital directors know how much medicine they have in stock and when they need to order more? It’s a lack of communication and recordkeeping.
Solving the Drug Shortage
The good news is that hospitals recognize that they have a major problem, and they’re trying to fix it. “Hospitals are taking many actions to reduce the impact of drug shortages on patients, including increasing inventory levels and devoting resources to train clinical staff to address shortages.”
Unfortunately, just increasing inventory levels won’t get rid of the problem of higher drug prices. Also, if hospitals order too many drugs, they could face new problems of spoilage and lack of funds to pay for other essential equipment and personnel. They need to make sure they’re getting the right amount of medicine to prevent serious problems, but they shouldn’t go overboard.
Fishbowl is a powerful inventory solution for hospitals because it addresses higher costs and inventory balance. Fishbowl does this by helping hospitals choose the best vendors, manage their supply chains and track inventory in multiple locations.
Even though 2010 was the worst year on record for medicine shortages, and 2011 hasn’t fared much better, hospitals can still turn things around. They just need the right tools.