Understanding the unique role of a 340B program pharmacy buyer and inventory specialist
By Kristin Fox-Smith (MPA), Senior Vice President, Hospital & Health System Services and Eduardo Mendez, Senior Consultant
Inventory support and supply chain management are important areas for the success of hospitals and health systems. This is especially true in the case of a 340B covered entity. As such, the pharmacy buyer plays a critical role in a well-run program. In Visante’s experience, however, we see that there is often confusion concerning the role of the pharmacy buyer. This can negatively impact the program overall and so we thought it would be helpful to explain the difference in being a pharmacy buyer at a non-340B covered entity and a pharmacy buyer at a 340B covered entity.
The general role of a pharmacy buyer and inventory specialist at a non-340B covered entity is to procure, receive and maintain the appropriate inventory levels of medications utilized within their hospital and health care organization. Many people think of a pharmacy buyer and inventory specialist as a pharmacy staff member that enters orders on a wholesaler website and serves the basic function of transmitting orders. A pharmacy buyer has the challenge of keeping the right balance of an on-hand inventory to meet the patients and prescribers need, while also staying within a pre-determined medication budget. Having the analytical skills to keep the right balance is challenging, given that this role must also take into consideration the operational workflow of the pharmacy, external customers, along with other stakeholders, within and outside of the pharmacy.
A pharmacy buyer at a 340B covered entity has another layer of analytics to perform even in advance of procurement. A pharmacy buyer at a 340B covered entity must take into consideration the compliance and optimization skills necessary to support their covered entity type, along with being mindful of inventory spend and appropriate wholesaler account utilization. Critical to the success of a pharmacy buyer and inventory specialist is the understanding of 340B compliance and strategies around account set-up and maintenance, pharmacy agreements, loan and borrow, short dated drugs, and medication shortage management strategies to ensure appropriate 11-digit NDC ordering, when possible.
Given the considerations of each covered entity, 340B split billing vendor is also important, given that the management of secondary wholesalers and direct orders, along with excluded drugs and carve outs may require separate handling and audit oversight. With the complexity of moving parts within a hospital and health system’s supply chain management, it is important to provide the necessary education and training to assist pharmacy buyers and inventory specialists in being successful. Many split billing TPA’s provide specific training for a buyer and inventory management role, but many hospitals and health systems fail to create proper operational processes to document the components of the role that have an impact on overall 340B health. Visante has extensive experience supporting all types of resources within a 340B program and can provide the expertise necessary to aide inventory and supply chain staff in the areas specific to compliant inventory management.