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How AI Will Tranform Conducting Medical & Pharmaceutical Inventory | By Chris Green, CEO & Managing Partner Of Meridian Inventory Services – Medical Device News Magazine

  • The simple answer is that for all that AI brings to the table, I do not see AI ever totally replacing the need for human workers when conducting medical and pharmaceutical inventory in the medical and pharmaceutical inventory collection will always need the human component.
  •   While AI brings much to the table and in some ways can serve as the brain function and we humans as the muscle, the human component is essential to a successful inventory process.
  • You would need to be living on the moon or under a rock if you have not heard about artificial intelligence (AI) and how it is impacting our lives and workplaces.

You would need to be living on the moon or under a rock if you have not heard about artificial intelligence (AI) and how it is impacting our lives and workplaces.  It is replacing workers, revolutionizing industries, and even helping make advances in medicine and science.  And we are just at the infancy of utilizing AI.

I am often asked how AI will transform conducting medical and pharmaceutical inventory.  Some have asked me will it replace human workers?  Will everything be automated?  Is it more efficient than using human workers?

The simple answer is that for all that AI brings to the table, I do not see AI ever totally replacing the need for human workers when conducting medical and pharmaceutical inventory in the medical and pharmaceutical inventory collection will always need the human component.  While AI brings much to the table and in some ways can serve as the brain function and we humans as the muscle, the human component is essential to a successful inventory process.  But having said that, AI can help make the medical and pharmaceutical inventory process more cohesive and cost-efficient.  At my company, Meridian Inventory Services, we have already incorporated AI in much of our processes.

But as I said, AI doesn’t completely do away with the need for humans in the medical and pharmaceutical inventory process.  Let me delve into why AI hasn’t replaced the human component in the inventory process, and I don’t believe should.

Physical Inventory Counts

Conducting inventory is just that counting and verifying what’s on hand.  As great as AI is, it cannot physically count and verify drugs and medical equipment.  Only humans can perform this now.

Inventory management fundamentally involves counting and verifying drugs and medical equipment—tasks that AI cannot perform physically. Human involvement is indispensable for these activities.

Complexity and Nuance

We all know that medical inventory management is a complex process that involves a wide range of products, including drugs, medical devices, and equipment.   Daily it seems to become more complicated.  Each item has its own unique characteristics, storage requirements, and expiration dates. AI systems may struggle to handle the nuances and variations inherent in medical inventory. Human Judgment and Decision-Making

Conducting medical inventory requires judgment and decision-making skills that are difficult to replicate in AI systems. For example, when an item is damaged or expired, the inventory manager must decide whether to discard it or quarantine it for further inspection. AI systems lack the experience and intuition necessary to make these complex judgments.  Also, the inventory process can be unpredictable.  AI does not deal with unpredictability; it deals with absolutes (Think of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey).  Humans know life is unpredictable and can adapt.

Regulatory Compliance

Medical inventory management is subject to strict regulatory requirements that are becoming more intricate and time-consuming.  They vary from state to state. Healthcare facilities must adhere to specific guidelines regarding the storage, handling, and disposal of medical products. Currently, AI systems are not designed to fully understand and comply with these complex regulations.

Patient Safety

Medical inventory is essential for ensuring patient safety. Errors in inventory management can lead to medication errors, equipment malfunctions, and other serious incidents. Humans are better equipped than AI systems to recognize potential risks and take appropriate actions to prevent them.

Communication and Collaboration

Inventory management requires effective communication and collaboration between multiple stakeholders, including medical staff, purchasing departments, and suppliers. AI systems may struggle to interact effectively with human users and understand their needs.

Small Scale Operations

Artificial intelligence is costly and will remain so for the foreseeable future.  Smaller pharmacies or specialized medical practices will not find utilizing AI to be cost efficient.

Integration Challenges

Implementing AI requires integration with existing pharmacy systems.  This is not a seamless process.  It is complicated and costly and very often existing systems are not compatible with AI.

How AI Enhances the Inventory Process?

Automated Inventory Tracking

AI-powered solutions can use RFID tags or other tracking technologies to automatically track the location and quantity of inventory items. This can help to prevent shortages and overstocking, and it can also make it easier to find items when they are needed.

Predicative Analytics

AI has made significant advancements in its analytics capabilities, surpassing human accuracy in many areas. Its predictive analytics represent a major leap forward, enabling more precise forecasting and inventory management.

AI can be used to analyze historical data to predict future inventory needs. This can help healthcare providers to avoid shortages and ensure that they have the supplies they need to meet patient demand.  By employing AI, pharmacies can reduce excess inventory, minimize stockouts, and maximize supply chain efficiency.

Automation

AI-powered systems automate routine tasks such as inventory tracking, reorder scheduling, and expiration date monitoring. This automation improves efficiency, reduces the risk of errors, and frees up pharmacy staff to focus on more value-added activities.

AI significantly enhances the medical and pharmaceutical inventory process. Despite the hype, it hasn’t eliminated the need for human involvement. Instead, humans and AI must work collaboratively. AI can augment human capabilities by providing data-driven insights, automating repetitive tasks, and optimizing processes. Meanwhile, humans contribute their expertise, judgment, and interpersonal skills to interpret AI insights, make informed decisions, and ensure high-quality patient care.

Successful inventory management in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors leverages the strengths of both AI and humans. This collaborative approach enhances efficiency, accuracy, and effectiveness while maintaining a customer-centered focus, harnessing AI’s full potential, and preserving the essential human touch in delivering exceptional inventory services.

Editor’s Note: Chris Green is the CEO and Managing Partner of Meridian Inventory Services.  Additional information on him and Meridian Inventory Services is available at https://meridianinventory.com