addiction medicine blog article

4 Must-Have Features for Methadone Inventory Control

Addiction medicine clinics will continue to get busier.

Written by

Medgen team

While the number of overdose deaths from prescription and illicit opioids doubled from just over 21,000 in 2010 to more than 42,000 in 2016, FDA-approved medication treatments began offering the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. According to a 2017 study, treatment with methadone and buprenorphine is associated with substantial reductions in the risk of death for people dependent on opioids.

With an estimated 2 million people in the U.S. currently suffering from a substance use disorder related to prescription opioid pain medication,1 efficient med-treatment inventory management has now become mission-critical. Both the effective treatment of patients and the success of clinic operations depend on the ability to accurately dispense, track and report on the highly controlled medications used to treat addiction.

What will an addiction medicine clinic need in order to meet the demands of the growing opioid epidemic? Make sure your inventory control software offers these four essential functionalities.

Checks and Balances

In a specialty where every drop of medication must be accounted for, manual processes are opportunities for error. An automated inventory control system that interfaces with the infusion pump will offer essential checks and balances that continually reconcile the medication in stock with the medication used.

Amounts would be logged in when a liquid methadone shipment arrives, for example. Then, because it communicates with the infusion pump, it will be able to keep track of every milliliter dispensed, including offering a way to account for spillage and trace amounts left in the line. With an up-to-the-minute inventory total available at any time, clinic staff can reconcile, every morning and evening, the inventory amounts the computer shows with the amounts in the physical bottles. Any discrepancies can be addressed immediately.

Flags and alerts should be built into the system, as well. If, say, the number of bottles entered doesn’t match the expected quantity, the system should register an alert and force the clinic staff to double check. Built-in checks and balances like these improve workflow by forcing best practices for inventory management. In this way, healthcare technology is enhancing workflow and making a clinician’s job easier.


Successful checks and balances are dependent upon being able to customize the system to accommodate the bottle and dosing specifications that are applicable to each unique clinic. Errors are inevitable when clinic staff are forced to work around the limitations of a fixed computerized system.

The Medgen system incorporates dictionaries in which clinics can define, for example, the measurements, sizes and units in use at their sites. With the ability to select predefined bottles and units when logging in new inventory, the system is then able to do the math on medication inventory levels when bottles are entered or utilized.

Similarly, a clinic must be able to define different dispensing locations within one clinic or manage several clinic locations within one inventory system. Clinics differ vastly in structure, procedures, medications and specialties. It is essential that inventory control software provide flexibility to accommodate individual needs.

User Safeguards

An effective automated inventory system should include safeguards that protect staff members from oversights and time-consuming workflow interruptions.

An effective inventory management system will know when a bottle is getting low in dosage, and it won’t let a clinician begin dosing for a patient without changing the bottle. It also will prevent two clinicians from trying to utilize the same bottle—the system must be smart enough to know that the bottle is no longer available in inventory.

Paper logs and electronic systems that do not interface with the infusion pump require manual reconciliation, leaving room for math errors, dispensing shortfalls and misattributions. Make sure the system you select oversees the full dispensing process and does not still require considerable staff intervention.

Advanced Automated Reporting

Clinics should expect a wide array of reporting capabilities with automated inventory management systems. In the case of an audit, high-level inventory numbers can be pulled at any time to provide accurate details about medication dispensed, inventory locations, lot numbers and more.

However, it’s the granular reporting that may be most helpful in assessing and improving clinic operations. Inventory control software should be able to drill down through dispensing location, lot number and bottle number to see the exact volume of any bottle at any given time.  Reviewing inventory and usage reports by location can assist with purchasing forecasts and evaluation of patient volume.

Few specialties are as dependent on accurate reporting as addiction medicine. The right inventory management system can make the process effortless.