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Pharmacy Automation in the VA

 

According to Siehr, CMOP fills 80 percent of all the outpatient prescriptions that are prescribed for VA patients. That equates to about 119 million prescriptions this fiscal year; more than 460,000 prescriptions each work day are placed in 310,000 packages, some containing multiple medications, and into the delivery system. That’s about 82 million packages a year, said Siehr, so CMOP employs a mail consolidator who processes most of the packages into the United States Postal Service’s Parcel Select Lightweight option. Utilizing the consolidator cuts delivery time and saves about $26 million annually over the cost of First-Class Mail®. Veterans with a My HealtheVet account, the VA’s online personal health record, can track the package along the delivery process.

Siehr noted that for the eighth consecutive year, the VA mail-order pharmacy received an “Among the Best” ranking from market research company J.D. Power and Associates, one of only two organizations to receive this designation, and for six of the last eight years, received the highest customer satisfaction score for all mail-order pharmacy organizations surveyed.

After the prescription information is reviewed and entered into the system, CMOP automation takes over regarding patient safety.

Siehr asserted that the automated process is safer and has error rates much lower than a manual system. “It is all done electronically, primarily with barcode reads and RFID [radio-frequency identification] tags that are in the conveyance systems that we use in CMOP,” he said. “All of those electronic checks and balances make our system extremely safe – greater than Six Sigma [a measure of quality with extremely low error rates] safe.

bob mcdonald pharm visit

VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald speaks with pharmacy supervisor Brad Smith during his visit at the Charlotte Community Based Outpatient Clinic in North Carolina. Pharmacy automation improves workflow and efficiency, which enables pharmacists to spend less time manually filling prescriptions and more time on managing their patients’ care. VA photo

“All of our systems are geared to that effect – that the right veteran gets the drug that was prescribed in the quantity prescribed in a timely manner,” he said. “We pay a lot of attention because there’s no room for error.”

As with the rest of the VA pharmacy automation system, in addition to safety features, the CMOP provides pharmacists at local sites opportunities to fulfill more clinical functions. “From a VA pharmacy-wide perspective, I call CMOP ‘the innovation that changed pharmacy,’ because before CMOP, all those 119 million prescriptions were filled at each local site,” Siehr said. Now, with CMOP filling those, pharmacists can “get involved in opioid safety or antibiotic resistance … or do more direct patient care.”

Siehr noted that for the eighth consecutive year, the VA mail-order pharmacy received an “Among the Best” ranking from market research company J.D. Power and Associates, one of only two organizations to receive this designation, and for six of the last eight years, received the highest customer satisfaction score for all mail-order pharmacy organizations surveyed.

Although CMOP services have a positive impact on veterans by ensuring their prescriptions are correct and delivered in a timely manner, Siehr said, “I don’t necessarily want the veterans to know I exist. I want them to think that their pharmacy care is provided by their local pharmacy, because that’s the face of pharmacy to that veteran. … There should only be one.”

This article was first published in Veterans Affairs and Military Medicine Outlook magazine.

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