Ask Emily: I need help with backorders!

October 11, 2019
Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, is regional director of operations at the Family Vet Group, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Shiver resides in Florida.

With so many drugs and supplies used daily in a veterinary hospital, its no wonder backorders happen. Here are ways I proactively problems and keep my doctors and team members in the loop.

pressmaster/stock.adobe.comOur team at and Firstline magazine asked practice manager Emily Shiver (a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager and a Certified Compassion Fatigue Professional) to answer your questions about life in practice for managers, technicians, assistants, client service receptionists and more. Got a question for her? Email us at

Q. Today I found out two drugs we use in veterinary practice are in short supply. How does your hospital stay on top of what products are going on back order?

A. Backorders can be frustrating, and while they're hard to predict, there are ways you can try to stay ahead of them. These are the tactics I use to get my practice from reactive to proactive when dealing with backorders.

Use all your resources. Outside sales representatives usually visit on a monthly or bimonthly basis, and that leaves a lot of time in between for you to be out of the loop. Take the time to build a strong relationship with your sales reps, and ask them to let you know if they're aware of backorders. They could put you on a list to be alerted when the product is back in stock, and if you're desperate, you can check in with them at least once a week to see if they've received new product they can share.

Be flexible. Although your hospital has primary distributors, creating relationships with multiple distributors can be a vital part of keeping backordered product in stock. As the old saying goes, “Never put all your eggs in one basket.”

Consider compounding, generics and human pharmacies. While there are pros and cons to using compounded medications, if this is your only option, take advantage of it. You may need to consider a generic as well if a name-brand product is unavailable-especially if the shortage is for an extended period of time. And do human pharmacies carry the product or something comparable?

Calm everyone's nerves. Backorders can incite a panic in your practice team. Creating stability helps keep things calm when backorders do occur. Make sure you:

> Contact the manufacturer or sales representative to get an expected release date.

> Find comparable products, present them to the decision-makers in your practice, and use that product in the meantime.

> Post a list of backordered products as well as the other information above. Clear communication calms concerns and provides staff with short-term resolutions.

> Update the list weekly or as you get updated information.

Backorders are inconvenient, but they don't need to cripple your practice. Building relationships with your reps, staying flexible when selecting alternatives and communicating clearly will maintain calm seas so your ship can sail!

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, is practice manager at Cleveland Heights Animal Hospital in Lakeland, Florida.