In our latest interview, Miles Bassin from FlexScanMD discusses their inventory management system and the importance of integrating well with EHR software. Read the highlights about the founding of their company, the overview of the integration and why dependable inventory management software can benefit any practice with inventory to dispense.
Tell us about what FlexScanMD is and a little bit about what you do there.
FlexScanMD is a web-based inventory management software. Our company helps medical practices of various sizes manage their inventory across a broad spectrum of their needs. My role within the company is very simple. I present our solution to those that are interested in finding out how they can better manage their inventory and get their workflows running a little more smoothly.
Who started the company and what motivated them to do that?
Our company’s founders have a background in programming and supply chain management. So, one day a hospital asked him to build them a custom inventory management system for some of their departments. This would allow the hospital to track lot numbers, expiration dates and other relevant metrics for their inventory.
Still, that was supposed to be a one-and-done project. It was exclusive to this specific hospital. After a couple of years, a doctor who had worked at that hospital started their own independent practice. They called up our founders and asked for a similar product, and our founders were shocked that there wasn’t already a similar inventory management platform for this doctor to use.
They did a little research and found out that there really weren’t many options in the medical inventory space for practices, especially for smaller practices to use. That’s what inspired the first iteration of an earlier version of what would become FlexScanMD.
Along the way they made some adjustments and enhancements based on feedback and industry needs–and out came FlexScanMD. Now they were ready to take this to the next level. The way that our system has progressed, seeing how it has grown and adapted, is just truly remarkable.
What other main challenges are there in inventory management, specifically in healthcare?
You can think very simply about inventory management and look just at how much of a specific item you have. Do I have amoxicillin? Yes. I’m putting it in my EHR and charting it for this patient at a specific dosage. I have 10 bottles. I could just put that on a spreadsheet, and it’s very simple to do. The same can be said for non-clinical inventory. But is that really it? Almost all of these items that are going to patients, generally have a lot number and an expiration date that are attached to them.
I can go get some Flintstone vitamins, look on the side and I will see that lot number and an expiration date. Tracking those things can be extremely imperative, especially in the era we live in–where recalls are common for everything from medical products to lettuce in the grocery store. That’s why it’s so important to have a system in place, where you can invest just a little bit of your time to set it up correctly, and then all of that is tracked for you. It’s not just a safeguard, but it’s a huge time saver down the road.
What are the repercussions of poor inventory management? How would that affect providers, patients and communities in the long run?
Look at it first from a practice standpoint. Regardless of your size, if you have a patient that’s sitting in front of you who needs medical care, treatment or something that’s going to improve their life right now, you better have that item in stock. There’s nothing worse than not being able to provide your patients with the treatments they need. That may sound obvious, but it’s not an uncommon problem for practices.
There are situations where you place an order for inventory that you’re low on, and that inventory gets to you. Then you have a sufficient supply, but unbeknownst to you, what you’ve ordered expires in six months! Now you have a limited period of time to get a massive amount of inventory–that you thought you would have a little more time to dispense–out the door. Some practices have to discard unused inventory, and that is a huge expense and an unnecessary amount of wasted time. That’s immensely frustrating for a practice.
Then if you start to dig a little bit deeper into inventory management, you start looking at the costs of time. Often, we underemphasize the value of time, and sometimes we’re not willing to take the investment that we need to buy ourselves more time. Inventory management is one of those things that practices often overlook when they consider the amount of money they have available to invest. However, more effective inventory management can lead to a smoother running practice and opens up a lot of time to dedicate to more important things. Clearly, there are more important things for practices to do than to manage their inventory, and that’s kind of the point, right?
I understand you’ve been working on the integration with DrChrono. What does it look like for the user to use FlexScanMD in DrChrono?
When we demonstrate FlexScanMD to clients, we like to identify it as its own separate system while showing how the integration works. What really matters to providers is seeing their patients and dispensing their inventory efficiently to that patient. While doing that, they might be in DrChrono, filling out an immunization record or the prescription for the medication. Then once that item is off the shelf, they can scroll to the menu on the side, and they’ll see the FlexScanMD app. When that pops up, it looks just like DrChrono. You won’t even know that you’re not in DrChrono.
Why does the continuity between a vendor like FlexScanMD and a platform like DrChrono matter for the provider in their day-to-day?
If you’re a provider, do you really want to be sitting there toggling back and forth between systems? Even if you have assistants that are going through the system while you’re working on seeing other patients, you really want to simplify this process. Having inventory management integrated into the EHR achieves that. We haven’t really seen a desire from providers to have to go into another system altogether when they could have everything in one place.
It just makes their life easier, so all we’re trying to do is save time and save the headache. This way, you can dispense seamlessly, have your inventory decremented, have a record of it there in the EHR and have it ready to be billed. Once you’ve dispensed the supplement, and payments have been made, you don’t have to worry about updating your inventory elsewhere. It’s all taken care of within that system. Even if there’s work going on behind the scenes, it’s not something with which the providers need to concern themselves.
How has your business adjusted to the needs of smaller practices during the pandemic?
Basically, we improved upon the use of existing technology. Barcode scanning is a huge time-saver. At the speed of light, you can transfer data into a field within DrChrono from FlexScanMD. It’s much quicker than typing that information out and will yield far fewer errors. You can scan a QR code and get sent to a patient’s page in DrChrono. This is a great tool to utilize for COVID vaccinations. You just scan and go.
We think of the scanning as a supply chain management tool. However, many doctors and providers are still transitioning inventory from paper to electronic. We believe that scanning is the best way to speed up the workflows involved there. The transition to these tools does come with some growing pains though. Development and patient listening are key pieces of getting these solutions to work for each doctor. It’s vital that we listen to what they’re saying they need rather than just presenting our tools as set in stone.
Small practices don’t have massive budgets, so it’s also our responsibility to clearly convey that the money they invest in scanners and software and the time they invest in establishing these workflows, will pay off on the backend.
What unique needs around inventory management have come out of the pandemic?
The biggest focus when it comes to COVID is speed. How quickly can I dispense this product and how quickly can I see patients? How smoothly are mass vaccination sites operating? These mass vaccination sites are all trying to move large numbers of patients through very quickly. They need to have a clear understanding of their inventory to achieve this.
Vaccine tracking in New York, for example, is essential. They require regular updates as to what’s gone out. If you’re sitting there with 600 appointments, you need to be able to track your vaccines accurately and as quickly as possible. Our goal when it comes to COVID vaccination specifically, is to utilize our software and DrChrono integration to speed this process up, allowing the end-user to be able to treat their patients and limit the amount of time that they have to manage their inventory.
One more thing that we can help with regarding COVID is tracking PPE inventory. My wife works in the medical field, and she has some underlying health conditions, so COVID is a significant danger to her. She’s definitely not alone in that, and I think most of us share that concern on some level. She depends on her practice supplying her and her teammates with PPE.
When you are running a practice, you want your staff to be protected too. To do that, you need to make sure that you have enough N95 and surgical masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and all of the necessary PPE. FlexScanMD will track that for you. Even if you’re not directly treating a COVID patient, or you’re not involved in vaccination, it’s still relevant to you to be able to have COVID related products like PPE.