CRMs Can’t Effectively Manage Medical Device Field Inventory (10 Critical Capabilities They Lack)

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Mareo McCracken
Mareo McCracken

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A CRM (Customer Relationship Management—like is primarily designed to manage interactions with current and prospective customers by focusing on sales, marketing, and customer service processes. Managing basic customer data, potential sales pipelines, and limited communication history may be sufficient for some industries, but managing customer relationships in Medical Device is significantly more involved.

There are specific medical device field inventory management complexities, tasks, and requirements that need to happen every day which CRMs are inherently just not built to handle. The fundamental truth is that the consolidation of systems and reducing inventory is something that CRMs can’t do. CRMs are insufficient and ineffective as medical device field inventory management tools—here are 10 specific reasons why:

  1. Lack of Specialized Inventory Functions:

    Medical device inventory management requires specialized functions, such as managing inventory loan and preference requests, last-minute changes, usage tracking, proper Purchase Order (PO) capture, billing, HIPAA-compliant communication, lot / serial number tracking, expiration date management, and condition status (e.g. sterile, non-sterile) tracking. CRMs typically do not have the native capability to manage these detailed inventory attributes effectively because from the ground up they were not built to handle inventory. The software foundation and architecture are inadequate to accurately and efficiently transact in the complex world of field inventory. And as customizations are added in an attempt to accommodate these needs, the resulting workarounds add increasing layers of complexity—while providing only a portion of what is truly needed.

  2. Does Not Benefit or Help the Sales Rep:

    The CRM is geared around presenting gleaned field data to leadership. Yet, without giving the sales rep an actionable, helpful tool, essential data and insights from the field will only be partially captured. It also violates the medical device sales rep culture of: My Surgeon, My Account, My Relationship. Medical device sales reps sell out in the field, in a clinic, in the OR, not sitting at home. CRMs do not help them do their actual job of serving the surgeon.

  3. Cannot Handle Complex Logistics and Distribution Needs:

    The medical device industry involves complex logistics and distribution processes, including consignment inventory, loaner kits, and reverse logistics. CRMs are not designed to handle these specific operational workflows, or the detailed tracking and replenishment processes required. When CRMs are customized to try and accommodate these workflows, the desired results never materialize. The CRM used to manage field inventory always becomes a makeshift, “Frankenstein-ed” tool rather than a smooth, purpose-built tool.

  4. No Real-time Inventory Visibility:

    Effective medical device inventory management requires real-time visibility into inventory levels, location, and movement across various locations, including warehouses, hospitals, and sales reps’ stock. Also needed is the ability to view and manage inventory by type, such as consignment, loaner, or hospital-owned. CRMs are not equipped to provide this level of detailed, real-time inventory tracking.

  5. Inadequate Control and Actions:

    CRMs are weak at driving action because they do not have control over inventory or the ability to direct behavior. They can report and suggest but cannot perform the complex tasks medical device inventory sales reps and ops teams need—such as trunk stock transfers, billing, usage capture, field audits, consignment and bill-only management, loaner inventory tracking and service, and replenishment requests.

  6. No Unified Platform for Complex Billing and Audits:

    Medical device inventory management requires handling complex billing, multiple orders and order types, usage, audit, cycle count, and replenishment requests. CRMs lack the needed foundational functionality to efficiently manage these aspects, and as a result requires more human intervention and less automation.

  7. Inability to Provide Real-Time Data and Integrations:

    Effective inventory management in the medical device sector requires real-time automation and true visibility at the item, set, and kit level across all stock locations. This data then needs to be shared with the true financial system of record, the ERP. CRMs cannot offer real-time tracking of transfers, shipments, and deliveries, nor can they validate receipts and usage to improve order-to-cash and accuracy. CRMs do not drive actions in the ERP, which causes extensive manual effort, complicated work-arounds, and excessive errors.

  8. Lack of Compliance and Security Features:

    Medical device inventory management must adhere to strict regulations including UDI (Unique Device Identification) compliance, handling sensitive health information, traceability, GDPR, and reporting standards. CRMs typically do not provide the necessary security features or compliance mechanisms for handling sensitive health information, proper expiration management, or issue tracking. CRM systems do not offer the specialized functionality needed to ensure compliance with these regulations that are specific for medical device field inventory management.

  9. Non/Low Integration with Operations:

    Medical device field inventory management needs to be closely integrated with other operational processes such as order fulfillment, usage capture, and billing. While CRMs can manage some orders and interactions, they lack the capability to seamlessly integrate with all other tools, systems, and processes. As a result, complex orders, transfers, cycle counts, loans, replenishments, and other operational tasks of medical device field inventory management end up requiring a separate tool. By not consolidating tools, CRMs create additional effort, hampering operations and sales—especially when they already use too many tools to use just to get through the day.  

  10. No Passive Data for Advanced Analytics, Benchmarking, Forecasting and Optimization:

    Medical device field inventory management benefits from advanced analytics for forecasting demand, optimizing stock levels, benchmarking across multiple companies, and reducing excess inventory. CRMs do not collect passive data; they only can collect what they are explicitly fed. Internal CRMs cannot combine industry data for benchmarking. Passive data is needed to truly perform advanced analytics. CRMs may offer basic analytics focused on sales and customer data, but they lack the sophisticated inventory-specific analytics required for effective inventory optimization.

In summary, while CRMs can be valuable for managing customer relationships and sales processes, they lack the specialized functionality, sales process automation, ERP integrations, regulatory compliance features, and operational automations—which are required for effective medical device field inventory management. Dedicated field inventory automation systems or specialized medical device field inventory management platforms (like Movemedical) are critical to meeting the unique challenges of this industry.

Unlike CRMs, Movemedical is designed to do much more than simply manage initial customer engagements and generate sales. We understand the role of sales in the Medical Device space is unique, it’s not just about selling a product. Movemedical is uniquely positioned to help nurture enduring partnerships where service and support are paramount. The Movemedical platform provides insights into those partner relationships to ensure their long-term health. It enables true partner support, because partnership and trust promote continual growth. It enables the day-to-day engagements which help operations and reps handle all the customer’s service needs efficiently. And that ultimately creates more sales capacity for engaging in deeper, lasting partnerships with customers. 

When you’re ready to discuss more, let’s continue the conversation. Request a demo today.


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