The COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on how consumers and businesses depend on a robust medical supply chain for everything from vaccines to daily prescriptions. Manufacturing delays and product shortages have revealed glaring inefficiencies in the healthcare supply chain, all the way down to the final mile of the journey to the patient.
When medications are most needed, delays and bottlenecks in the supply chain threaten timely delivery, and can potentially alter the healthcare treatment of the patient who needs that medicine right away. Pharmacies that have limited supplies of certain medications (and anxiously await the next resupply from manufacturers) are often forced to make hard decisions about which patients get the meds right away and which patients may have to wait.
As a result, pharmacies may need to “split” what they have in medicine inventory on hand and partially satisfy each patient’s needs by parceling out quantities of medication. For privately owned mom-and-pop retailers and institutional pharmacies alike, the pivot to partial prescription fulfillment is costly and time-consuming.
In a regulated market like healthcare, where it is extremely difficult to pass along cost increases, being profitable and competitive comes down to being highly efficient in business operations. Now more than ever, healthcare providers are looking at every option to streamline processes and limit expenses. One of the first places pharmacies can look is at their last mile fulfillment. With a final mile logistics partner like USPack providing outsourced delivery services, pharmacies can save money and be more operationally efficient while also getting medications to the front door of those who need it, when they need it.
Unpacking the challenge: Disrupted prescription fulfillment and delivery
Efficient final mile delivery begins at the top with manufacturers. When manufacturers cannot receive the raw materials they need from suppliers to produce medicine, this trickles down to their relationship with wholesalers, pharmacies, and patients.
When wholesalers are unable to provide pharmacies with a full stock of requested medications, testing kits, and healthcare devices, pharmacies turn to the solution of last resort: partial prescription fills. This allows pharmacies to cover their entire patient base in the here and now—and buy time until they can get more stock. The logistical and administrative consequences of these partial fills are devastating, with prescriptions now needing to be processed and handled multiple times.
Consider patients who are dependent on daily blood pressure, cholesterol, heart, diabetes, or antidepressant medications—let alone patients undergoing treatment for potentially terminal conditions such as cancer.. Their 30-day refill suddenly becomes two 15-day refills. Not only does the pharmacy have to split the prescription and fill it two times, they have to go through the entire administrative and customer service process twice, from insurance validation, to another delivery.
For institutional pharmacies that service large group facilities —such as nursing homes, universities, and correctional facilities—the cost of inefficiency is exponential: logistics is their 3rd largest expense. What was an incredibly efficient system becomes bothersome and time-consuming for pharmacies, patient care managers, and patients.
In the U.S., with most healthcare providers beholden to government and insurance price controls on medications, as well as hippocratic ethical considerations, pharmacies cannot make up for these additional administrative and service costs by raising prices of their product like any other business. Making the entire scenario even more troubling, the change in medication delivery frequency can also damage the pharmacy-customer relationship. If their local pharmacy isn’t delivering their prescriptions effectively, it only incentivizes patients to look to other pharmacies to meet their needs.
A data-driven solution: Collaborating with a logistics expert
Pharmacies can mitigate the cost of partial fills by partnering with a last mile delivery logistics company that can provide delivery services, but more importantly, can give data-driven logistics insights and solutions to help pharmacies make the right executive business decisions. At USPack, we have decades of experience working closely with pharmacies to identify and implement the most cost-effective, strategic solutions to reduce delivery expenses.
Specifically, USPack provides specialized data analysis and reporting to enable healthcare providers to leverage their existing route structure. Clear visibility into routes, daily delivery composition, and cost analysis allows pharmacies to better understand what happens in their delivery network on a daily basis—and ultimately gives them insight into the best timing for all fills but especially their partial fills.
Our recommendations for fitting deliveries into a pharmacy’s existing network, and thereby minimizing the number of trips, helps drug stores get filled prescriptions into the hands of patients most efficiently.
Ongoing collaboration is the key to success. Sometimes, pharmacies will notice a spike in volume (e.g., seasonal illnesses). But more often, because pharmacies don’t have a logistics manager, we will flag an increase in volume, and take important steps to minimize the need for added runs and drivers. This proactive, data-driven approach enables pharmacies to keep up with volume and their patients’ needs, while also protecting their margins.
USPack’s expertise: Maximizing prescription fill efficiency
With the right last mile partner and strategy, pharmacies don’t need to overspend on logistics costs. USPack is uniquely positioned to help drugstores protect their bottom line and prioritize cost control. We help healthcare organizations identify opportunities to consolidate, and minimize trips and delivery expenses.
Leverage the power of data-driven outsourced final mile delivery. Contact USPack to learn how we can help you gain efficiencies and bolster customer service.