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Specialty Pharmacies Should Leverage AI Tracking to Increase Drug Delivery Efficiency

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Speakers at the 2023 Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit outlined how artificial intelligence (AI) tools for pharmaceuticals, such as parcel tracking, could reduce operational costs for specialty pharmacies and mitigate drug delivery issues for patients.

During a presentation at the 2023 Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit on leveraging technology in health care, speakers outlined how specialty pharmacies could use artificial intelligence (AI) tools to increase drug delivery efficiency and reduce operational costs.

The session was titled “Leveraging Technology To Improve Medication Delivery Performance” and featured data from a case study of how one specialty pharmacy reduced annual medication resend and product loss avoidance of over $2 million.

Kirk Nilson, CEO, ParcelShield, began by outlaying some of the main business challenges specialty pharmacies face, including increased expenses for package shipping or medication delays as well as lost or missing packages. Additionally, a lack of proper proof of delivery documentation for every medication that gets dispensed can make it difficult to track how often or how much is being spent on missing these issues. Overall, up to 25% of the packages that are delivered do not arrive on time. Nilson explained that carriers of drug packages need help and specialty pharmacies need protection.

“The [mail] carriers over the last couple of years have, experienced record poor performance and challenges. As we think about what they went through during the COVID-19 [pandemic] to how volumes have increased overall, like with all types of e-commerce, mail order, and brick and mortar stores…. As we think about future, there are many things that the carriers are going to continue to face, whether its structural changes in their own organization or continuing to increase volume without the capacity to handle it,” explained Nilson.

Specialty pharmacies also struggle with knowing what geographic zones will be impacted by weather events and being understaffed. Nilson noted that it’s more expensive to scale up a workforce than to leverage technology.

Pharmacies should have access to the number of total packages shipped, packages with issues, late packages, carriers with challenges, carrier service’s level of inconsistency on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Parcel tracking technology that used predictive analytics can help with real-time package delivery monitoring and ensure on-time delivery. Specialty pharmacies should also look into tools that can increase communication about drug delivery between providers and patients.

“One of the biggest calls that most customer service pharmacies get is the ‘Where's my order?” call. And so, effective communication along the way can ultimately decrease the amount of these calls and keep your patients better informed along the way. And then, ultimately having this insight to be able to take action, either prior to shipping or return shipping, will ultimately help the delivery performance as well. Because at the end of the day, the most important piece is that the patient is at the center of it all, and ensuring the medication arrives on time is the price of admission of a specialty pharmacy,” Nilson commented.

AI and predictive analytics tools can aid pharmacies by:

  • Identifying weather threats
  • Accessing historical and real-time parcel carrier performance data
  • Assessing pharmacy logistics
  • Providing demographic data
  • Understanding which states and zip codes are associated with consistent delivery levels
  • Preventing reships/resends of medications and reduce product losses

Jessica Cooley, chief growth and customer officer at ParcelShield, outlined the case study, which found that when one specialty pharmacy leveraged drug delivery enhancement technology they were able to increase overall profitability by avoiding $2.4 million in product loss, improve shipping efficacy by improving planning across multiple origin sites, and improve patient satisfaction (net promoter score).

In addition to AI, machine learning tools, and parcel distress forecast technology, Cooley recommended for specialty pharmacies look into:

  • Real-time scheduling decision support to provide shipping recommendations based on service deliverability and patient need by date
  • Intuitive scheduling dashboards
  • Minimum workforce investment so as not to impact call center handle times and avoid the need for classroom training
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