Defense sets pharmacy system rollout for August

Defense sets pharmacy system rollout for August

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

The Defense Department expects to complete the continental U.S. rollout of a pharmacy benefits system by August in spite of a three-month delay, an official said.

The system is designed to increase the accuracy and safety of filling more than 50 million pharmacy orders each year.

'We're blazing new trails in integrating three disparate systems into one central repository,' said Army Lt. Col. William G. Davies, the Pharmacy Data Transaction Service (PDTS) program manager at the Tricare Management Activity.

'A project like this has never really been done in the commercial sector,' which accounts for the implementation delays, he said.

The PDTS rollout begins this month at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The original rollout target date was January, Davies said.

Computer Sciences Corp., the contractor on the project, and subcontractor Mede America Corp., a Twinsburg, Ohio, subsidiary of Healtheon/WebMD of Atlanta, will integrate three systems. They are the National Mail Order Pharmacy; the Composite Health Care System, which runs at 105 sites under Digital VMS, and the Pharmacy Benefits Management system, Davies said.

Managed-care providers and the National Mail Order Pharmacy will likely be part of PDTS by next April, Davies said.

Tricare officials hope to reduce what they call patient misadventure'when patients receive incorrect amounts or types of drugs.

The systems integration, along with standardization of patient identification data by synchronizing four elements in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, is designed to increase accuracy, he said.

Electronic Data Systems Corp. developed DEERS.

The biggest hurdle for PDTS is upgrading military treatment facilities' communications infrastructures so their LANs can access the Defense Information Systems Network and send encrypted data through network firewalls, Davies said. Under PDTS, more than 50 million transactions will go through the network every year. That will strain the throughput and capacity of the LANs, he said.

The Tri-Services Infrastructure Management Program Office at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, has set a minimum standard of 100-Mbps switched networking to the backbone and 10-Mbps switched to desktop PCs for military health system facilities [GCN, March 6, Page 37].

Six months ago, Healtheon/WebMD officials set up a frame relay connection for the three systems in Twinsburg, with TCP/IP connections to the defense network, said Robert Kirkpatrick, PDTS program manager at CSC. Healtheon/WebMD officials are running a virtual private network to encrypt transactions, he said.

Secure move

To ensure security, Healtheon/WebMD officials cannot share PDTS data with third parties or use the information for business purposes, Davis said.

'The security will be very robust,' he said. The company is using a clinical screening engine and data repository under its CSC subcontract.

Healtheon/WebMD maintains a Novell Inc. LAN, and CSC will deploy a relational database management system to store the master database, which must store two years of patient data, Kirkpatrick said.

'Any time a patient gets a drug, it will check against a central database' to ensure that the patient isn't prohibited from having that type of drug or is hoarding drugs,' Kirkpatrick said. 'Right now, the systems are not connected in any way.'

Standardizing identification data for patients, providers and medications is another key issue, he said.

Synchronize this

PDTS will use data standards set by the National Council for Prescription Drug Program, and officials will also synchronize the system's data with DEERS, said Navy Capt. Charlie Hostettler, director of DOD pharmacy programs at Tricare.

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