IHS Pharmacy Utilizes Initiatives to Boost Efficiency and Patient Safety

WASHINGTON, DC—Receiving medications by mail rather than waiting in line for them is one of the benefits of a new pharmacy initiative piloted by IHS and VA.

IHS has recently partnered with VA to pilot an IHS-VA Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP) Pilot Program at Sioux San IHS Hospital in Rapid City, SD. The program enables Sioux San Hospital to send its chronic stable refill prescriptions electronically to the VA CMOP in Fort Leavenworth, KS where the prescriptions are filled, and then shipped to the patient’s home.

Capt Chris Watson RPh, MPH, principal pharmacy consultant for IHS, said new initiatives like these will allow IHS pharmacists to spend less time dispensing medications while increasing patient safety and patient convenience. “I think this is a very, very exciting time for the practice of pharmacy.”

Efficiency and Patient Safety

A task force convened in 2007 by the IHS National Pharmacy Council developed four main criteria to guide pharmacy priorities for IHS, according to Watson. One of the priorities listed was the need for the development of creative ways to take care of dispensing activities. “We are always on the hunt for new ideas where we can get the dispensing function completed, but in the process allow pharmacists more prescriptive time.”

The pilot program with VA at the Rapid City IHS facility is one way in which it is working to facilitate the dispensing of medications in a more efficient way, stated Watson. The partnership was beneficial for IHS because it does not have a system in place similar to VA’s that would allow the dispensing of medications refills to be streamlined. VA, however, has the capacity to do it. “This was a great example of where the IHS could really streamline our way of doing business. The VA can use some of their excess capacity and we really are maximizing our federal dollar in the process.”

The program has only been in place for a few months, but Watson said that they believe that by dispensing chronic stable refill prescriptions in the pilot through VA’s CMOP it will allow pharmacists at the IHS facility to spend less time dispensing medications and more time on clinical activities, such as patient safety.

Most importantly, patient safety will benefit through the arrangement with VA. According to Watson, the partnership has decreased prescription filling errors for prescriptions filled through the pilot to essentially zero. “From a patient safety standpoint, we don’t have a lot of dispensing errors now, but anything we can improve on in that line is certainly a step in the right direction.”

Watson explained that IHS signs agreements with patients who are participating in the pilot requiring them to seek medication consultation from clinical pharmacists at the IHS facility during their regularly scheduled visits. These patients, who are no longer waiting in lines for their medications, have become much more attentive during these consultation sessions, he said. “IHS has always counseled patients on their medications … but many times our patients have been somewhat reluctant to listen and interact with the pharmacist and ask questions after they have been waiting in a pharmacy line for a while.”

The pilot is still new in Rapid City and IHS expects to look at different measures to determine the pilot’s impact. The Phoenix Indian Medical Center will be the second IHS-VA CMOP partnership pilot.

Training Pharmacy Technicians

Another development that IHS believes will add efficiency to its pharmacy process is training that three of its pharmacy technicians will receive through DoD’s Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) Pharmacy Technician Training Program, in Fort Sam Houston.

Watson said the program at METC is the most advanced technician training program that he has seen. IHS will explore multiple new models regarding how it can best utilize these highly trained technicians. “We are so pleased that the METC program at Fort Sam Houston has allowed us to have three students go through their training program and allow us, then, to see how we can creatively utilize technicians in addition to what we have with CMOP.”

The more effectively IHS utilizes its technicians, the more clinical time is generated for pharmacists to focus on patient safety, Watson explained.

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