The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has system capabilities through multiple computer applications that support its clinicians and pharmacists in prescribing and dispensing medications to patients. However, pharmacists cannot always efficiently view necessary patient data among Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical sites. In addition, pharmacists cannot transfer prescriptions to other VHA pharmacies or process prescription refills received from other VHA medical sites through the system. As a result, the system does not provide important capabilities for pharmacists to make clinical decisions about prescriptions efficiently, which could negatively affect patient safety.
In its efforts to establish and increase interoperability with the Department of Defense (DOD), VA has developed capabilities to exchange certain patient and medication information. For example, VA’s pharmacy system has the ability to check prescription drug information from DOD. Nevertheless, limitations impede interoperability with DOD: (1) VA clinicians and pharmacists cannot always view DOD patient data and (2) VA pharmacists do not always receive complete information from DOD to perform prescription checks on new medications. Also, VA has not assessed the impact of its pharmacy system interoperability on service members transitioning from DOD to VA, and VHA officials stated that doing so would be difficult because there are other personnel related-factors that could affect patient-care outcomes. Without assessing the impact that pharmacy system interoperability is having on veterans, VA lacks assurance regarding the effectiveness of the system to adequately support its mission of providing health care to veterans.
VA’s pharmacy system capabilities align with three of six identified health care 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. However, the pharmacy system lacks capabilities that align with three other practices which could enhance its usefulness:
Pharmacists cannot electronically exchange…”
G2X TAKE: This report highlights identified technical limitations that impact VA’s ability to interoperate with private providers, provide additional clinical decision support, and to track medications that can impact veterans’ patient safety.
GAO reports can tend to highlight issues that are already known and in the process of being resolved, but any insight into challenges do provide firms with an opportunity to come forward with potential solutions and can serve as a great conversation starter. Worth the five-minute read.