GAO: VA pharmacy system needs data exchange capabilities

The Department of Veteran Affairs needs to modernize its pharmacy system to improve patient safety, according to a Government Accountability Office report released June 14.

The GAO analyzed documents describing the VA's pharmacy system and actions the VA has taken to achieve interoperability with the Department of Defense. Its goal was to determine whether the VA had a functional pharmacy system that adequately exchanged data with DOD.

The office found the VA's pharmacy system lacked interoperability — specifically, it was unable to electronically exchange prescription data with non-VA providers and pharmacies. The pharmacy system also did not have clinical decision and workflow capabilities that could improve clinicians' and pharmacists' abilities to provide care and it did not maintain a regular medication inventory.

Here are the GAO's six recommendations.

1. Implement a plan to update the pharmacy system's outpatient pharmacy application inefficiencies.

2. Complete a plan to standardize data between the VA and the DOD.

3. Assess the extent that the VA's pharmacy system is interoperable with the DOD's pharmacy system, and how this exchange affects the care of transitioning service members.

4. Execute a plan to send outbound e-prescriptions to non-VA pharmacies.

5. Ensure the VA's evaluation of alternatives for EHRs includes level 3 capabilities, such as navigating from an alert to a medication order within the EHR system.

6. Prioritize establishing an inventory management capability.

The VA responded to a draft of the report, generally agreeing with the six recommendations.

"The [VA] stated that, while viewing complete DOD data is essential for the safe care of veterans, VA's consistent viewing of DOD pharmacy data is dependent on that department’s completion of its data interoperability initiatives," the report reads. "VA added that, in the interim, both departments are planning enhancements to the joint DOD/VA Clinical Health Data Repository to improve the exchange of pharmacy data between VA and DOD, and plan to complete this effort in fiscal year 2018."

Click here to view the full report.

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