RFID tracking solutions are gradually finding their place as the norm for keeping tabs on valuable assets. In the context of healthcare, hospital facilities face two primary questions relating to their pharmacy:

  • How do they keep track of the stocks of hundreds, if not thousands, of drugs?
  • And, as importantly, how can they effectively manage control of drug expiry dates and temperature management?

RFID tracking has started to bring in the results as an inventory management solution. It has been providing healthcare facilities with the means for a time-saving, cost-effective tracking of drug stock levels in pharmacies.

It’s the most efficient way of making sure that patients get the drugs and other medications they need to treat their illnesses, without delay. At the same time, RFID tracking has also proven effective for checking drug expiry dates and maintain optimal temperatures in drug storage areas.

By integrating RFID tracking solutions into the system, hospitals can maintain visibility on the “popularity” of certain stock (or how much in demand it is). In doing so, hospital systems can keep their supply chains efficient, without over- or under-spending on medication – instead redirecting the savings to areas where they are needed most.

In other words, hospitals can use smart inventory solutions to maintain optimal stock levels and ensure they have the right quantity of stock at the right time.

Issues with Pharmacy Stock Takings

A pharmacist is essentially responsible for ensuring each patient gets the right amount of drugs, at the right time, to cure their illnesses. As with pre-RFID inventory management systems, stock taking in the hospital pharmacy was manual, which meant the potential for human error and inaccurate data.

It also meant that pharmacy staff had to spend much time checking drugs for their expiry dates and keep a sharp eye on stock levels.

By automating their processes, pharmacies ensure that each box of medication receives its own tag and placed within trays that are also tagged. Each RFID tag carries unique information regarding the tray’s content, including name, type, expiry date of each medicine, and whether it’s adult or paediatric medicine.

Each time medicine is removed from the cabinet, the reader scans its removal and alters the information on the hospital’s central data storage system. This automated response ensures that the pharmacist does not need to manually enter information, stock levels are automatically altered, and expiry date alerts can also be checked.

The Benefits of RFID Pharmacy Inventories

Integrating RFID tracking solutions into their drug management systems ensures that hospitals gain the following benefits:

  • Cost management – RFID tracking solutions have the primary ability to help hospital systems manage their budgets effectively. In terms of drug supply, hospitals no longer have to deal with over-purchasing certain drugs, and alter how they spend their budget in this area. It helps create that balance between investing in frequently used drugs of varying prices and altering expenditure for very expensive, infrequently used drugs that a hospital may still need.
  • Reduces stock oversupply – With greater visibility on stock levels and movement, hospital management teams can prevent over-ordering of drugs. The management team is also able to see what drugs are used the most and the potential shift in drug usage according to season.
  • Automated replenishment requests – As an automated system, RFID tracking allows hospitals to program their system to create automatic requests for reorders and drug stock replenishment. As soon as stock reaches a certain level, this request is sent through to the material management system that forms part of the hospital’s central management.
  • Costs sent to where they are needed most – RFID tracking solutions also help the hospital’s management team redirect costs and vital resources to where they are needed the most. By keeping in check items that are being used from the inventory, they can tell:
    1. What departments are using what and when;
    2. Where the money needs to be spent instead (if needed);
    3. What departments don’t have enough in terms of resources.
  • Prevent use of expired drugs – This is where RFID tracking has proven its life-saving uses. Using RFID-enabled drug dispensing cabinets, pharmacy staff are able to quickly see the expiry dates on any drug within the cabinet. By combining the information coming in relating to stock replenishment, pharmacies are able to reduce the amount of drugs expiring, unused. Even though some drug companies provide at least partial credit for returned, expired drugs, this still represents a loss of revenues for hospitals.
  • Enforces anti-theft systems – RFID-based systems provide a greater capacity to track movement of drugs, control access to pharmacy stocks, and how the drugs are being distributed. Hospital management teams can see who has accessed the pharmacy’s stock and when, and take the appropriate security steps.
  • Anti-counterfeit drug management – In a bid to prevent counterfeit drugs making their way into the healthcare system, drug ingredient manufacturers are starting to give all individual ingredients RFID tags. This ensures greater traceability and accountability for what’s going into medication before they reach patients.

Without smart inventory management as part of its pharmacy system, hospitals face the issue of a disconnect between costs and procedural measures. This means that hospitals may end up having no visibility and meaningful insights into clinical care, staff, use of resources and cost control.