GAO Report: VA Pharmacy System Must Improve Ability to View, Exchange Data | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

GAO Report: VA Pharmacy System Must Improve Ability to View, Exchange Data

June 16, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pharmacists cannot always efficiently view necessary patient data among Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical sites, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

What’s more, the report concluded, 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,” according to GAO.

Per Congressional mandates, GAO is required to examine VA's acquisition and use of a pharmacy system. For the study, GAO set out to determine whether VA currently possesses a functioning pharmacy system and the extent to which the system enables data to be viewed, shared, and transferred among VHA pharmacy locations; if VA's pharmacy system is interoperable with the Department of Defense’s (DOD's); and if VA has implemented its pharmacy system in accordance with healthcare industry practices.

As such, GAO analyzed documentation describing VA's pharmacy system; observed system demonstrations; analyzed plans and actions taken to achieve interoperability with DOD; and identified industry practices related to pharmacy systems, and compared them to VA's system capabilities.

In its attempts to be interoperable with DoD, VA has developed capabilities to exchange certain patient and medication information, according to the report. As an example, VA's pharmacy system has the ability to check prescription drug information from DOD.

Nevertheless, GAO concluded, limitations impede interoperability with DOD. For instance, VA clinicians and pharmacists cannot always view DOD patient data, and VA pharmacists do not always receive complete information from DOD to perform prescription checks on new medications. Also, the report stated, 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 healthcare to veterans,” the report attested.

Although VA's pharmacy system capabilities align with three of six identified healthcare industry practices, it lacks in three others, GAO said:

  • Pharmacists cannot electronically exchange prescriptions with non-VA providers and pharmacies. Therefore, veterans need to obtain paper prescriptions from external providers or have the providers fax the prescriptions to their local VA pharmacy to fill the prescriptions, which is time consuming and inefficient.
  • VA's system does not include certain clinical decision and workflow capabilities that, among other things, could improve clinicians' and pharmacists' ability to provide enhanced medical care to veterans. VA has indicated that it plans to implement such capabilities, but its plans for doing so are incomplete.
  • VA's system does not maintain a perpetual inventory management capability to monitor medication inventory levels. Therefore, pharmacists cannot effectively track when to reorder medications.

GAO has made six recommendations including that VA update its pharmacy system to view and receive complete medication data, assess the impact of interoperability, and implement additional industry practices. VA generally concurred with GAO's six recommendations, according to the report.

Get the latest information on Interoperability/Health and attend other valuable sessions at this two-day Summit providing healthcare leaders with educational content, insightful debate and dialogue on the future of healthcare and technology.

Learn More

Topics

News

Report: Insider Threats to Patient Data Remain Unnoticed

Of the reported healthcare data breach incidents that occurred in September, it took an average of 387 days for healthcare organizations to discover a breach had occurred, according to a report from cybersecurity software company Protenus.

Reports: Ex-Pharma Exec Alex Azar Emerges as Trump’s Top Pick for HHS Secretary

President Donald Trump could be on the verge of tapping Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical industry executive and George W. Bush administration official, as the next HHS Secretary, according to media reports.

ONC HIT Certification Program Approves HIMSS Immunization Integration Method

The ONC has approved a HIMSS testing method for the health IT certification program that can now serve as an alternative to the current National Coordinator-approved method for testing transmissions to immunization registries.

UF Health Receives $2.2 Million CDC Grant for Telemedicine Project

UF Health Jacksonville in Florida will be using a $2.2 million federal grant to launch a telemedicine program aimed at improving care for patients living with HIV in an urban setting.

Epic, CVS Health Team Up to Use Analytics for Informed Medication Insights

Epic Systems and CVS Health have announced an initiative in which analytics and data sharing will be leveraged to generate insights surrounding dispensing patterns and behaviors around medication adherence.

Two Major Healthcare Collaboratives Partner to Improve Regional Data Sharing

NRHI a national organization of regional healthcare improvement collaboratives, and SHIEC, a national trade association representing health information exchanges, are now joining forces.