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Modernizing Pharmacy Inventory Management

When it comes to managing your pharmacy’s inventory, many managers find they’re wrestling against their pharmacy inventory management system instead of working with one. Waking up every morning to fight your platform another day is just as discouraging as it is inefficient. In this article, I’ll cover some telltale signs that your perpetual inventory system isn’t working and what to consider when looking elsewhere for solutions.

The Birth of Pharmacy Software

Many Pharmacy Information Management Systems (PIMS) include pharmacy inventory management as part of their long list of features, but they haven’t always been that way.

When these systems arrived in the late ’70s to early ’80s, any inventory tracking was done by hand on a paper ledger. And sadly, those ledgers didn’t all vanish with every system that arose. The evolution of the pharmacy system would prove to be a slow one. I remember how baffled I was when I ordered a new server from a common pharmacy system just a few years ago and it arrived with a dial-up modem. It seems that just like those old dial-up modems, change is slow.


In 2020, software distribution (much like your computer) bears little resemblance to what it was in 1979. (Think cloud-based computing and AI versus having to wait for that precious 3.5mm floppy disk to arrive by snail mail.)

Fortunately, finding solutions for managing your inventory doesn’t mean you have to uproot and leave your entire PIMS solution.

Today, the best PIMS providers recognize the growing desire their customers have for integration with other systems and work with providers like SureCost to meet those needs.

So how can you find out if your inventory system is the wrong fit?

pharmacy inventory management the wrong sizeWarning Signs That Your Inventory Solution is a Bad Fit

Here are 3 signs I consider to be red flags that your perpetual inventory system is doing more harm than good:

  1. You’ve got at least 1 full-time employee that spends all of their time correcting discrepancies.
  2. You’ve felt the need to take an inventory every month from which you update your on-hands.
  3. You’ve got a backup system with bottles or stickers.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time to look for a better fit. For some, that means expanding to inventory solutions outside of their PIMS; for others it may mean cutting back to one inventory system across their operation. In my experience, however, I find most pharmacies are needing to expand beyond one system.

The Weakness of One

While the idea of doing everything in one system works well for a stand-alone retail pharmacy with no automation, it can feel like you brought a spork to a steak dinner as soon as growth or complexities are introduced. For growing pharmacies that are still operating a stand-alone PIMS, just the act of separating your dispensing and tracking systems alone can introduce flexible decisions for what goes where that didn’t exist before.

Additionally, it may introduce features that can be significant time-savers that you haven’t had. For example, your PIMS inventory offerings may not allow intelligent cycle counting – this means the only way to sure up your on-hands is to take a full physical inventory. And once you’ve done that, how do you update those on-hands? That’s right, one by one! Conversely, with the addition of a system like SureCost, you can save time and increase accuracy with automated and/or manual cycle count creation, plus the ability to update on-hands with your latest physical inventory all at once.

A well-placed inventory system will reduce the overall labor needed for maintenance.

Where to Start

Finding the right fit for your pharmacy can take some trial and error. Having overseen inventory in LTC, Hospital, Central-Fill and Retail pharmacies over the last decade I can tell you each market and each operation was unique. But when you get the right solution you’ll find that you have time to actually improve your inventory instead of playing catch-up all day.

So if you’re fighting your current inventory solution every day or experiencing any of the warning signs above, drop your spork and request a web demo; I think we can help you!

Thanks For Reading!

Hopefully, you found this article helpful! If you enjoyed it, please check out my companion article, Managing Up for Inventory Management for more insights on this subject. As always, feel free to reach out to our team to find out more about how SureCost can help your teams work better together.


Chase Ferguson is the Product Manager for Emerlyn/SureCost.  He brings over a decade of extensive healthcare and pharmacy experience as an IT Manager, Purchaser and Pharmacy Technician for retail, hospital and long-term care pharmacies.

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