Inventory Management Technology as the Hub of a Fully Integrated Specialty Practice Solution: Part 3

By Greg Metz |

Inventory management technology can help practices deliver the healthcare experience this generation expects.
Aging baby boomers and their evolving healthcare needs continue to impact and drive changes across the healthcare industry. But for many specialty practices, millennial patients are also drawing their attention, and not because of their medical needs.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the millennial demographic is 83 million strong, which means it represents more than a quarter of the population.1 With the oldest millennials turning 38 this year, many of America's first generation of “digital natives" are now participating in the medical system as adults.

The participation of millennial adults in the healthcare system has many implications for physician practices. A 2015 survey conducted by Salesforce found that 74 percent of millennials would prefer a doctor who offered them the ability to schedule and pay for their care online.2 The same survey also revealed that a significant majority of millennials are interested in using mobile devices during appointments to share information (73%) and using mobile apps to review health records and manage care (71%). Millennials also reported an interest in using innovative technologies like telehealth (60%) to communicate with their doctors from home. In other words, millennials want healthcare—and their personal healthcare experience—to mirror what they've come to expect from other industries: fast, efficient, convenient, effective and affordable service.

There are many ways a specialty practice might go about addressing these expectations, but a productive place to start can be with implementing an integrated inventory management (IM) system. An advanced IM solution can help physician practices cater to the millennial demographic.

IM Systems Drive Practice Efficiency
Patients don't want to spend all day in the clinic—or even a minute longer than absolutely necessary. This is especially true for tech-savvy millennials who are accustomed to immediacy in their experiences. If a 30-something patient comes in for an appointment and is left with the impression that your practice is operating inefficiently, they may not return in the future — and could decide to write a critical online review. A survey conducted by PNC Healthcare found that around 50 percent of millennials factor such reviews into their choice of healthcare provider.3 Specialty practices can help prevent this problem by implementing an IM system that improves efficiency by automating the tracking and ordering of medications and also by communicating seamlessly with electronic medical record (EMR) and practice management systems to streamline clinical and administrative documentation. The millennial patient won't notice the technological infrastructure working in the background during their visit, but they will appreciate the efficiency it brings compared to a practice without these technologies in place.

The same can be said for young physicians and staff: One recent study commissioned by the American Medical Association (AMA) found that 92 percent of millennial doctors think work-life balance is important.4 A technology that allows them to be more efficient at work in order allows for more time spent with friends and family.

IM Systems Can Improve Care Coordination
Another common complaint heard from millennials is that care coordination between multiple providers is often subpar or even lacking altogether. As digital-first consumers who shop with their smartphones and are accustomed to having what they want at their fingertips, millennials have little patience for clinicians who don't have instant access to their medical histories or the medications they were prescribed by other doctors. In their view, their physicians should be connected, just as they are connected among themselves. For many millennials, the inability of a practice to communicate across the care continuum is inexcusable.

Inter-practice connectivity—and more specifically, interoperability—isn't something that inventory management technology can accomplish all on its own. But because an IM platform can accurately and automatically push patient medication data into the EMR and practice management systems, it is an important part of the connectivity puzzle overall.

IM Systems Can Reduce Care Costs and Improve Outcomes
The PNC Healthcare survey also revealed how cost-conscious millennials can be: 41 percent of this generation reported requesting a price estimate prior to care, while 54 percent said that they would delay or avoid treatment if they decide that it's more expensive than they can afford.5 While an integrated IM system can't solve every cost-related issue, it can help facilitate cost effective access to medications. For example, the patient access form in an IM system allows practices to digitally pre-authorize treatments, thereby eliminating any unexpected denials that could lead to out of pocket costs for the patient.    

The automation of pharmaceutical management can also help practices maintain the inventory they need for patient care while avoiding the costs associated with overstocking and expired medications. This added efficiency can ultimately translate into further cost reductions as staff devote their time to other areas of practice. IM systems also offer the potential to cut the cost of care by ensuring that each medication is an exact match for a particular patient's needs. When the right drug is delivered at the right dose at the right time, that should lead to better care outcomes—and perhaps help your millennial patients, and all patients for that matter, avoid expenses down the road.

While many millennials are relatively healthy not currently using medical services to the same extent as their baby boomer counterparts, in a few years, that will start to change. Physician practices with integrated IM systems will be prepared with the tools necessary to help attract and maintain millennial patients by delivering the type of fast and efficient service they expect.

1. “Millennials Outnumber Baby Boomers and Are Far More Diverse, Census Bureau Reports." United States Census Bureau. Website: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-113.html, accessed July 2018.
2. “2015 State of the Connected Patient: Healthcare insights from more than 1,700 adults." Salesforce. Website: https://a.sfdcstatic.com/content/dam/www/ocms/assets/pdf/industries/2015-State-of-the-Connected-Patient.pdf, accessed July 2018.
3. “Five Ways Tech-Savvy Millennials Alter Health Care Landscape." PNC Health. Website: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/five-ways-tech-savvy-millennials-alter-health-care-landscape-300054028.html, accessed July 2018.
4. “Millennial physicians sound off on state of medicine today." AMA Wire. Website: https://wire.ama-assn.org/life-career/millennial-physicians-sound-state-medicine-today, accessed July 2018.
5. “Five Ways Tech-Savvy Millennials Alter Health Care Landscape." PNC Health. Website: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/five-ways-tech-savvy-millennials-alter-health-care-landscape-300054028.html, accessed July 2018.

About the Author

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Greg Metz

Vice President, Inventory & Technology Solutions
AmerisourceBergen
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