GAO Suggests VA Pharmacy System Overhaul
WESLACO – A probe by a government watchdog group found the VA system isn’t on-par with standard pharmacies.
Rio Grande Valley veteran Francisco Belmarez said at times, he’s had to wait so long for prescriptions that he’s felt ill and had to go to the emergency room
“They need to fix the system so we won’t have problems getting our medication,” he said.
The GAO report said the VA pharmacy system “does not provide important capabilities for pharmacists to make clinical decisions about prescriptions efficiently, which could negatively affect patient safety.”
“We’re always in a continuous improvement cycle. We’re always striving to provide better care for our veterans,” Acting Chief of Pharmacy for VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System Chris Miller explained.
The report also explained the VA’s system doesn’t maintain an inventory management tool to monitor medication levels. That means pharmacists can’t always track when to reorder a patient's medications, so they risk running out.
VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend spokesperson Reynaldo Leal said My HealtheVet can help vets manage their prescriptions and their health.
“My HealtheVet is an extremely powerful platform that allows veterans to message their patient aligned care teams- or pact teams- online,” he said. “It also allows them to refill their medications in a timely manner, it lets them know where they are in their medications and it allows them to communicate with the pharmacy.”
Pharmacists can’t electronically exchange prescriptions with non-VA providers and pharmacies.
Leal said that means if a vet runs out of medication, they sometimes need paper prescriptions from providers outside of the VA to get more medicine, which can also be time consuming.
“Usually I call in to get them renewed, the ones that expire. I’m always told they’ll take care of it… They’ll submit a request for the doctor so they can be renewed. But usually it doesn’t happen,” said Belmarez.
Before the report came out, the VA stated they had plans to improve workflow capabilities.
Until then, the GAO said their ability to operate with private providers and track medications is limited. They said it could impact the veteran patients’ safety.
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