After Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) discovered its emergency warehouse needed drastic improvements due to new federal mandates and the limitations with its current inventory management system. They discovered they were greatly lacking in their ability to efficiently respond to public health and healthcare facilities’ needs, and to appropriately manage inventory to prevent asset loss.

After researching numerous options, MSDH implemented a new inventory management system, Fishbowl, which met all federal requirements and addressed all of their specific needs as well.

With the lessons of Hurricane Katrina behind them and Fishbowl fully implemented, MSDH was able to immediately set up inventory control within their emergency warehouse within the early days of the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak. Utilizing the standalone system, they were able to deploy pandemic influenza assets to various facilities in a timely and efficient manner. The success of the emergency warehouse operations hinged primarily on the inventory management system and the team that operated it.

Mississippi State

Business Challenges & Needs

Following Hurricane Katrina, a federal mandate required that each state implement plans to place and operate an emergency warehouse. As part of those mandates, public health institutions such as MSDH were given the responsibility to receive, distribute and dispense federal Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) material during major public health disasters. SNS assets are provided to help states and localities save lives, prevent disease, and facilitate basic healthcare services when there is a widespread terrorist attack, a natural disaster or an industrial accident.

During disasters, the greatest challenge MSDH faces is the ability to rapidly and safely provide antibiotics, antivirals, chemical antidotes, antitoxins, life support pharmaceuticals, vaccines, intravenous administration supplies, airway maintenance supplies, masks and medical/surgical items to communities in Mississippi.

“After our experience during Hurricane Katrina, we were determined to find an inventory management system that would exceed federal expectations and enable us to better serve the people in our state in the event of another disaster,” said Meg Pearson, PharmD, MS, director, MSDH Pharmacy. “We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task, but our top priority was creating an efficient system that would ultimately save lives.”

The Solution

MSDH clinical staff worked with database administrators to research inventory management systems that could effectively manage assets, meet government regulation requirements and operate in a mobile environment when needed. Based on its extensive features, MSDH set up a pilot program for Fishbowl’s software solution. The pilot tested its capability to receive, distribute and maintain inventory control for SNS assets. Among the long list of requirements tested, some of the key factors were Fishbowl’s ability to recover unused SNS assets, use FIFO inventory management by expiration date, be compatible with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) delimited file, create custom reports, track asset movement between sites, assign order priority and apportion for multiple events.

After successfully completing the pilot, Fishbowl was implemented as Mississippi’s primary inventory management system for SNS.

“Using lessons learned during our response to Hurricane Katrina, we sought an inventory management system with a significant list of attributes we needed,” said Pearson. “Fishbowl was the only solution able to deliver on all points.”

Mississippi holds a minimum of three drills per year to test its warehouse management of SNS assets and to further increase efficiencies and ensure team members are proficient with the system. In addition, pharmacy staff, assisting in operations of the emergency warehouse, requested use of Fishbowl to manage inventory in their daily operations to track state and federal stock antiviral medications for the MSDH Office of Emergency Planning and Response.

Mississippi State

The Results

In April 2009, all states were required to activate emergency warehouses for receiving pandemic influenza antiviral medications and support materials in response to the H1N1 influenza outbreak. Using Fishbowl, MSDH was able to immediately set up inventory control within the emergency warehouse, key in pandemic influenza assets, create kits of material to service nursing homes and hospitals, and distribute materials to hospitals, nursing homes, and ambulance services.

The benefits were immediately recognized:

  • Efficient and confident inventory control that meets all federal requirements.
  • Cost savings and improvements by creating an efficient workflow (24-hour staffing was not required to manage inventory).
  • 374 institutions quickly and accurately received antiviral medications or influenza support materials.
  • Reduced asset loss.
  • Expedited medical supply distribution process; tracking and reordering done in real time.
  • Ability to create pre-populated customer database, standard and customized reports to operate in a mobile environment.

Utilizing Fishbowl, Mississippi is now recognized as a national leader in operations related to receiving, distributing and dispensing SNS assets. In fact, MSDH recently received the distinguished score of 99 percent from federal partners for SNS asset-handling capabilities.

“Fishbowl has proven itself as an excellent inventory management system for our emergency warehouse operations during large scale public health disasters,” said Pearson. “We would not be able to provide needed medical assistance to our residents in such an efficient way without it.”