Mail-order pharmacy experience of veterans living with AIDS/HIV

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Abstract

Background

The VA system is the largest single provider of healthcare in the United States and to individuals infected with HIV specifically. High quality medication management is particularly important since HIV is a chronic infectious condition which requires taking multiple medications with strict requirements for adherence to medication regimens. Veterans Administration (VA) patients are required to obtain all chronic medications using the VA mail-order pharmacy system.

Objective

Drawing on Donabedian's Quality Improvement framework, this study sought to examine experiences that Veterans with HIV have with the Veterans Administration medication mail-order system, and to explore opportunities for quality improvement.

Methods

A sequential, explanatory mixed-methods design was used to interview Veterans receiving care at a Midwestern Veterans Administration Hospital using a mail-order experience survey followed by in-depth interviews. All 57 Veterans, out of 72, who were successfully contacted consented to participate.

Results

Overall, Veterans evaluated the mail-order service positively and valued the accuracy (correct medication delivery). However, a notable problem emerged with respect to assuring access to HIV medications with about half (47%) indicating running out of HIV medication. Respondents identified structural issues with respect to days covered by mailed medications (90 versus current 30 days) and process issues with scheduling new refills. Veterans also indicated the information sheets were too long, complex and not helpful for their queries. Patients were open to pharmacists playing an active role during clinic visits and felt this would help manage their conditions better.

Conclusions

Veterans generally reported that the VA Mail-order service was of high quality. However, some findings indicate there are opportunities to improve this service to be more patient-centered particularly for vulnerable HIV patients.

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