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How to Pick the Right Medical Inventory Management Software

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Many providers wonder about how to pick medical inventory management software. Unhelpful technology can disrupt your practice workflow, which can bring substantial costs to both your financial and your reputation. And of course, there is the wasted time and resources spent on startup costs and training staff in using the program. So how do you find the right program?

Picking the Right Inventory Management Software

As you begin your decision process, there are a number of approaches, but some basic principles can provide a helpful framework. These include the following:

Tip #1: Minimize Expenditure

This might seem obvious, but many people still think spending a lot of money gets you the best solution. But when thinking about how to pick medical inventory management software, avoid a large cash outlay up front, and opt for an installment type of plan that lets you cancel anytime. Better yet, many medical inventory software vendors offer free trial periods where you can start using the program and see if it works for you.

With this, always opt for software that is web-based (“in the cloud”) so that the vendor is responsible for handling updates and fixes. You want to minimize the time and money your staff spends on managing the technology.

Tip #2: Get Staff Feedback

When you feel like you have made a choice, resist the urge to contact a salesperson, and talk to your staff instead. They may have ground level insights from friends or coworkers that you may not be aware of. In this age of information overload, sometimes important news about software may get overlooked, but your staff may have heard about it.

As an aside, this principle applies during rollout as well. Give your staff a couple of weeks to learn the new system, then ask for their feedback. It makes no sense to implement a system that for whatever reason is not “clicking” with them since your practice will rise or fall on their performance. Even if you use the program yourself and feel it is adequate, remember that as the decision-maker sometimes there is a subtle psychological bias to want to justify our decision, and downplay or ignore problems that are obvious to others.

Tip #3: Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes

Picking technology is not easy since there is such a wide variety of choices, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Even large corporations make mistakes, as millions of office workers will tell you. It may take some trial and error before you finally settle on a medical inventory management software that works for your office. Don’t give up, because in the long run, it will be more than worth it, both financially and for your own peace of mind.

Tip #4: Make a Wish List of Features

wish list

It is critical to think about what you really want in your new medical inventory management software. If possible, take a day, perhaps a Saturday, and host a meeting or retreat where you and your staff sit down and discuss the reality of your office workflow—not how it’s supposed to work according to the rules, but how it actually works—and what they would like to see the new software to do. The list will probably be fairly long, so you will then have to work to prioritize the top 8-10 features that you will absolutely need. Making a list empowers you to know what to look for when you start shopping, and to avoid getting distracted by features that may be impressive but not what you really need.

To help you in making your wish list, here are some features that many medical practices have found important to have in their inventory management software:

  • Does the software capture product details such as quantity, units of measure, and expiration date? And can it track specific units of product that may need special supervision, control etc.?
  • Can the program use PAR levels to monitor stocks and alert you supplies are running low?
  • Is there a way to assign unique “storage” spaces such as shelves and lots? This especially helps with controlled items requiring special handling.
  • Does the program track expiration dates and tell you when it is time to reorder? And can you create purchase orders that can be reviewed later? Even if you use a different order fulfillment system, it would be extremely helpful if the software both tells you to order an item, and then lets you create the order for it.
  • With this, does the program have the option of instant order fulfillment, such as EDI? This is an important feature that makes real-time inventory control much easier.
  • Are there reporting tools that track metrics like item usage, profitability, etc.? Is there a way to monitor system usage and if necessary edit or undo transactions?
  • Finally, is the program layout easy to use? Is the setup clear and obvious, or is it hard to understand? On the other hand, usability is an issue for software in general, and if you find a program that does what you want, you may still want to try it out, even if it seems less than perfect. A slick interface is impressive, but does not make up for lack of functionality, and may mask other problems behind the scenes.

Tip #5: Find a Good Partner

Finally, what about the software company? Are they easy to work with, or do they have an “attitude” and seem unhelpful once they’ve gotten your money? Do they respond quickly to problems and keep their promises? When you choose medical inventory software you are really choosing a company to partner with you for a long time. It’s imperative that there be a good working relationship, otherwise even an excellent program could be more trouble than it’s worth.

When you think about how to pick medical inventory management software, it can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Just a few simple principles for selecting medical inventory management software can keep the process practical, rational, and ultimately profitable for your medical practice.