VA Pharmacy System Requires New Capabilities to Better Serve Veterans

June 20, 2017

A new report from the United States Government Accountability Office is calling for pharmacy systems to better serve veterans through additional capabilities for viewing, exchanging, and using data.

A new report from the United States Government Accountability Office is calling for pharmacy systems to better serve veterans through additional capabilities for viewing, exchanging, and using data.

According to the report, the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) medical sites lack the capability for pharmacists to transfer prescriptions to other VA pharmacies, and does not allow the processing of prescription refills from other VA sites. These limitations can negatively impact patient care since pharmacists are unable to make clinical and prescription decisions efficiently because of the restricted availability of patient information.

According to the report, the VA’s pharmacy system only has capabilities to fulfill 3 of the 6 main healthcare industry practices.

“Specifically, the pharmacy system (1) provides the ability to order medications electronically, (2) enables prescription checks for drug-to-drug and drug-allergy interactions, and (3) tracks the dispensing of controlled prescription drugs,” the report stated.

However, the system lacks the ability to electronically exchange prescriptions outside of VA pharmacies, and the system does not have certain workflow and clinical decision capabilities, or maintain a capability to monitor medication inventories.

In order to improve the VA’s pharmacy system, the report recommended 6 actions:

  1. Formulate a plan for fixing the inefficiencies in viewing medication data,
  2. Support the capability for clinicians and pharmacists to have access to all Department of Defense (DOD) data,
  3. Assess the exchange of information between the VHA and DOD’s pharmacy systems impact on transitioning service members,
  4. Create a plan for the capability for sending electronic prescriptions to pharmacies outside of the VHA,
  5. Guarantee that evaluations of electronic heath records will consider generation level 3 capabilities, and
  6. Establish an inventory manager to track medications.

“VA is limited in its ability to interoperate with private providers, provide additional clinical decision support, and more effectively track medications that could impact veterans’ patient safety,” the report concluded.

The critical role of pharmaicts was highlghted in a recent issue of Evidence-Based Oncology. Shank et al discussed the integral part played by pharmacists in enhancing transitions of care in patients undergoing cancer treatment through medication reconciliation, education, and post-discharge follow-up to ensure optimal, safe, and effective medication use. The authors write that pharmacists at large cancer centers, who have experience with the treatmetn regimens, should be able to collaborate with smaller centers and with other facilities such as a skilled nursing home or a long-term acute care facility, to ensure adequate patient care.