Managing a pharmacy is tough. You need to serve patients, review and interpret physicians’ orders, dispense drugs, monitor patients’ drug regimens, complete insurance forms, and bill insurance companies — not to mention the financial, sales, staffing, and marketing duties. These are things you and your staff deal with every day, and if you do all this by hand, management gets even more challenging and time-consuming.
Managing your pharmacy manually slows down your processes:
- Inventory doesn’t get updated in real time, you lack historical data, and you can’t generate reports. Plus, your inventory is difficult to analyze.
- Prescription preparation takes 40% of pharmacists’ working hours.
- Claims are often denied because of incorrect or missing information or billing errors.
- Documenting patient and payment records takes a big bite out of pharmacists’ schedules.
It’s 2020, and today all these challenges can be met by pharmacy management software. Let’s find out what such a system looks like and what it takes to develop one. You’ll also find out whether you require custom pharmacy management software development and when it’s better to go with a ready-made solution.
Before going any further, it’s important to understand what a pharmacy management system is and how it can help your pharmacy operate efficiently.
Wikipedia defines a pharmacy management system as “a system that stores data and enables functionality that organizes and maintains the medication use process within pharmacies.”
Pharmacy management software is a unified system that manages retail products and medications and automates operations such as stock control, drug dispensing, claims management, billing, and reporting. Such software provides pharmacies with a big picture of the business’s performance and a real-time overview of costs, revenue, and sales (at every location, if it’s a chain).
Usually, pharmacy management software is multipurpose and contains a number of different features. It’s reasonable to build such a system using a modular approach, grouping similar features into independent modules. For example, an inventory management module could contain features for uploading inventory, updating stock levels, and managing supplies, while a document management module could contain features for scanning, storing, and retrieving documents, including Certificates of Medical Necessity (CMN) forms, insurance cards, prescriptions, and workers’ compensation forms.
Each pharmacy needs its own set of pharmacy software features and modules. Your choice of functionality should depend on what you want to accomplish. Below, we outline features that can be helpful.
Inventory management is one of the greatest pain points for pharmacies. According to a resource paper of the Council on Credentialing in Pharmacy, pharmacists spend nearly one-fifth of the workday managing inventory. Paper-based inventory management is cumbersome and vulnerable to human errors. Plus, it requires plenty of time to design, track, and analyze paper-based processes. Pharmacy software that features inventory management, on the other hand, takes your inventory automatically and frees your staff’s time. Additionally, it allows pharmacies to keep up with customer demand and make data-driven decisions.
In the inventory management module, you can consider adding the following features:
- View stock levels and inventory status by product and location (if you have a chain)
- Automatically update stock levels when customers buy from you
- Create purchase orders and send them to suppliers
- Get real-time notifications when a medication is about to run out
- Generate reports
There are lots of data and documents circulating around a pharmacy. Enable your system to scan, store, and retrieve documents.
Features to include in a pharmacy data management module:
- Upload medical data, such as notes from physicians and pharmacists, by scanning and/or entering data manually
- Store and view medical data
- Retrieve medical data
This is an important module, since it can help you understand your pharmacy’s performance and get insights into your revenue, expenses, and sales.
Features to include in an analytics module:
- List of suppliers and customers
- Inventory-on-hand reports
- Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly revenue reports
- Reports on orders, sales, profit margins, trending medications, purchase orders, etc.
To get the maximum benefit from your management system, integrate it with the tools you already use. If you integrate with a point of sale (PoS) system, you’ll be able to record transactions and update inventory automatically. To facilitate prescriptions, consider integrating e-prescribing software. It will accelerate the processes of filling, renewing, modifying, and cancelling prescriptions.
Since there are lots of ready-made pharmacy management systems on the market, you might be questioning whether it’s worth building a custom pharmacy management solution. To understand what’s right for you, let’s outline the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches.
To understand if custom development is financially viable for your pharmacy, let’s walk through some reasons for building a custom pharmacy management solution.
- You have specific processes and business needs that no existing software can meet. Custom development allows you to decide on every element of your solution, from design to functionality, to fit your specific business processes.
- You want to grow your system and adapt it to changing requirements. Custom projects are good at scaling. So if you plan to open other locations, get more people to use your system, and manage more data, custom development is a good option. Plus, you can always change designs, add new functionality, and modify existing functionality.
- You need to meet unique security and privacy requirements. With custom development, you can craft software with security in mind from the beginning. Additionally, if you’re going to store patient data in your system, you’ll need to comply with privacy standards your platform is subject to.
Learn more about privacy and security in healthcare.
- You don’t have enough resources (money and/or time) to build a custom Pharmacy system. When developing from scratch, you pay for prototyping, designs, actual development, and quality assurance. All told, this is usually a big investment. When using a ready-made solution, you pay regularly in small parts, which is less painful. But note that in this case, you don’t have a system once you stop paying, which is to say you’re renting a system. With custom development, you own the system outright.
We selected four popular off-the-shelf pharmacy management systems and compared them based on their pricing, platform support, functionality, and disadvantages based on clients’ reviews.
|Best for||Independent pharmacies||Independent pharmacies, long-term care (LTC) pharmacies, dispensaries, clinics||Independent pharmacies, pharmacy chains, compounding pharmacies, specialty pharmacies, hospitals|
|Platforms||Windows||Windows, iOS, Android||Cloud, SaaS, web|
Learn more here
|Pricing||Pricing not provided by the vendor||Starts at $1500 as a one-time payment||Pricing not provided by the vendor|
The main difference between a custom and an off-the-shelf solution is that custom software is made specifically for you, whereas off-the-shelf software is designed around generic best practices. Therefore, we suggest you don’t go with a ready-made solution unless it addresses your precise problems and pain points.
Forward-thinking pharmacies have gone digital for managing their businesses. How about you? Is your pharmacy ready for a digital transformation?
You’re now armed with all the information you need to start building your own pharmacy management software. If you still have unanswered questions, message us. We’d be happy to help!