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New pharmacy system being developed

According to Bob Brewin of the Next Gov newsletter, the TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) in DEC kicked off the process to develop a joint electronic pharmacy system for the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments with a Request for Information to industry for commercial products that could handle the task. The joint system would manage 190 million prescriptions a year. TMA, which manages Military Health System (MHS) information technology projects, asked for a single solution to track prescription and medication orders and improve patient safety by flagging drug interactions. MHS annually fills 50 million prescriptions while VA fills 140 million 32 million a year in hospitals and clinics and 108 million through seven mail order pharmacies. Industry sources said the ability to handle this scale of transactions, which would make the program the largest pharmacy system in the world, will be a key criteria as the procurement process moves forward.

TRICARE wants a pharmacy system with links to other systems, including electronic health records, automated pill dispensing machines and drug company systems. The joint pharmacy system will need to track medications tagged with both bar codes and radio frequency identification chips and support an interface to package tracking systems used by the U.S. Postal Service and United Parcel Service. The pharmacy system is the first project under a joint electronic health record project approved earlier this year, and is formally called the integrated Electronic Health Record (iEHR) Pharmacy initiative. Both MHS and VA have unique functions that will be handled as separate applications. These include battlefield care, obstetrics and pediatrics for MHS and nursing home, long-term care and nursing homes for VA.

Computer Sciences Corp. currently runs the MHS pharmacy data transaction service under a 51-month contract awarded in October 2010. VA developed its pharmacy systems internally in its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture and it includes 13 applications that gather, process and store data pertaining to prescriptions and orders written and filled. VA and MHS have failed so far in their efforts to develop a small-scale joint pharmacy system at the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported. GAO said deployment of the prescription order system at Lovell also has been delayed pending high-level review at the two departments. As a result, the Lovell joint VA/DoD hospital had to hire five full-time pharmacists to manually check individual patient records in each of the departments' electronic health record systems to identify possible harmful interactions between drugs prescribed in the two separate systems. At present any civilian drug store can check on drug interactions which raises the question why is it taking VA and MHS so long to be able to do this.

Please see your local county veterans service officer if you have any questions. You can contact your local VSO at (218) 631-7617 or by e-mail at As always, have a great week.