Partnership improves prescription delivery to American Indians

February 15, 2011

The Department of Veteran Affairs is partnering with the Indian Health Services to improve prescription delivery to the federally recognized tribes of IHS, a population of about 2 million people.

Key Points

Imagine a government health program that serves millions earning the highest excellence rating awarded by J.D. Power and Associates. Has it happened?

Indeed it has. The 5-star-rated mail-order pharmacy program of the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) was the first of its kind in this country to receive the rating. Today it continues to set a benchmark for innovation and efficiency, and now the VA is partnering with the Indian Health Services (IHS) to improve prescription delivery to the federally recognized tribes of IHS, a population of about 2 million people.

On October 21, 2010, IHS announced a pilot program between its Rapid City PHS Indian Hospital in Rapid City, S.D., and the VA's Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP) program in Leavenworth, Kan. According to an agency statement, "The pilot program will improve safety and cost effectiveness by providing prescription refills by mail to support care for veterans and other IHS patients requesting the service in the Rapid City area."

Michael A. Valentino, RPh, MHSA, chief consultant in Pharmacy Benefits Management Services, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, said that the mail-order pharmacy program, which was conceived almost 2 decades ago, was the result of "some very insightful pharmacy leadership in the VA who understood manual processing was not a viable process in the long run." The VA, he added, was probably the first to break ground and pioneer mail-order automation in both the public and private health-sector markets. "We were 2 years ahead of Kaiser."

In describing the considerations that led to CMOP, Valentino said that the lack of space and the cost and inefficiency of the labor-intensive process of filling so many prescriptions manually "just wasn't going to serve us."