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 14 June 2024. 

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News | April 16, 2024

McDonald Army Health Center Pharmacy: Tough times, Tougher People

By Andrew Brown

Pharmacy staff at McDonald Army Health Center (MCAHC) faced significant challenges during the recent cyber-attack on Change Healthcare (CHC).
The cyber-attack caused a disruption in the pharmacy's critical systems, making it difficult to access and process prescriptions. The disruption also hindered the pharmacy's ability to provide timely and efficient care to its beneficiary population.
“This outage impacted military clinics and hospitals nationally, resulting in the inability to adjudicate pharmacy claims in real time. MCAHC Pharmacies continued to provide prescriptions through manual procedures, which resulted in delayed processing times,” said MCAHC Pharmacist Jessica Pruitt.
The shift to manual processing was time-consuming and labor-intensive, placing an additional burden on the already stretched pharmacy team. They had to manually verify medication orders, document patient information, and manage inventory, which required meticulous attention to detail and an increased workload.
“MCAHC pharmacies shifted toward the established downtime procedures to continue to provide patient care. We prioritized ACUTE and URGENT prescription needs followed by routine prescriptions. The pharmacy staff relied on manual profile reviews to ensure medication safety and appropriateness,” said Pruitt.
Amid the chaos caused by the cyber-attack, the pharmacy team faced the challenge of maintaining patient safety. However, the team was able to implement additional security measures to prevent medication errors and protect patient information, helping ensure that prescriptions were accurately verified and dispensed.
“The Pharmacy team quickly implemented downtime procedures in accordance with DHA guidance and communicated with the MCAHC team during daily morning safety huddles so that leaders could facilitate patient education within their departments,” said Lt. Col Courtney Folderauer, MCAHC Deputy Commander for Nursing. “Additionally, as wait times continued to increase beyond MCAHC’s three business day standard, Pharmacy worked with public affairs and managed care teams to provide messaging to our beneficiaries on various communication platforms.”
With the prolonged system outage and missed duty days due to holidays, the team recognized that the turnaround time for routine medications would continue to increase. Numerous team members volunteered to take on extra hours and workload to bring wait times back down to the three-day turnaround threshold.
“Despite the many challenges, the McDonald Army Health Center Pharmacy demonstrated resilience and dedication to its patients,” said Folderauer “They adapted to manual processes, implemented additional security measures, and collaborated with other healthcare providers to ensure the continued availability of essential medications. Their ability to overcome these challenges and provide safe and reliable healthcare during the cyber-attack is a testament to their professionalism and commitment to serving the military community.”
McDonald Army Health Center is one of thirteen military treatment facilities within Defense Health Network (DHN) Atlantic that provides highly reliable, high-quality healthcare to its beneficiaries while maximizing joint force readiness.


 
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