GAO: VA pharmacy system lacks key data capabilities

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A pharmacy system maintained by the Department of Veterans Affairs for prescribing and dispensing medications to patients is falling short in providing pharmacists with the necessary data capabilities they need to do their jobs.

That’s the contention of a new Government Accountability Office report that found that pharmacists cannot always efficiently view necessary patient data among Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical sites. Further, auditors noted that pharmacists cannot transfer prescriptions to other VHA pharmacies or process prescription refills received from other VHA medical sites through the pharmacy 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,” the report concluded.

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Shortcomings also exist in achieving interoperability with the Department of Defense systems, the GAO contends. Its study found that 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.

In addition, according to GAO, VA has not assessed the impact of its pharmacy system interoperability on service members transitioning from DoD to VA, while VHA officials told auditors 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,” states the report.

To address these shortcomings, GAO 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 officials were not immediately available to comment on the report. However, in its written response to the report, VA generally concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

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