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BIG SPRING — The West Texas summer heat impacts every rural West Texan. Veterans who depend on medications that don’t do well in the heat are at risk of hospitalization if that medicine goes bad. West Texas VA Health Care System (WTVAHCS) has embarked on a pilot program called – ‘Beat the Heat’ – to ensure their Veterans have all the temperature-sensitive medications they need to see them through the hottest months of summer.

 

Veterans who rely on temperature-sensitive medications, such as insulin, normally receive a 30-day supply of medications at a time in small shipping coolers packed with ice. This method of shipping works well in most circumstances. However, when the summer temperatures reach highs in excess of 100 degrees for days on end, this method of shipping does not always protect the medications inside.

 

This leads to costly losses of expensive medications, delays in Veterans receiving them, and additional costs in having to re-ship medications.

 

“We’re always looking for ways to improve how we deliver health care to our Veterans,” said WTVAHCS Director Jason Cave. “This team has developed a solid, workable plan that will improve the lives of our Veterans. I look forward to the feedback of the pilot program.”

 

WTVAHCS has been developing a plan over the past several months to alleviate these issues and has begun operation ‘Beat the Heat’. Pharmacists, doctors, and others devised a pilot program to ship a 90- day supply of these critical medications to Veterans before the summer temperatures begin to bake the West Texas landscape, and they put this pilot program into action this June.

 

This may sound like a relatively simple feat but does have its challenges. Considerations such as the stability of the Veterans medication treatment plan, the ability of the Veteran or their caregiver to properly store and care for the medications, which medications are appropriate for this effort, and much more went into developing operation ‘Beat the Heat’.

 

“A great deal of planning went into this effort,” said Associate Chief of Pharmacy, Wendy Brown.

 

“Our team screened every Veteran in our catchment area who receives these medications; discussed the plan with them and asked if they wanted to participate in the pilot program.” In all, more than 100 West Texas Veterans opted to participate.

 

WTVAHCS doesn’t typically maintain enough of these medications to send a 90-day supply to Veterans.

 

Part of the planning began months before with the Pharmacy team working with WTVACHS Fiscal and Logistics Services to purchase large quantities of the medications and to get them to Big Spring and stored appropriately in advance of this effort.

 

“Handling medications is always delicate,” said Chief of Logistics Carla McCullough. “But these medications require a greater degree of care and cannot simply be placed in a box or envelop and sent out.” Large quantities of special cooler-shipping boxes and ice packs had to be ordered well in advance to support “Beat the Heat”.

 

“Shipping the 90-day supply now will put medications in the hands of our Veterans in time to last throughout the summer months,” said Brown.

 

After looking at years of average summer temperatures, Brown and her team of Pharmacists and technicians determined that the first week of June was the best week to execute “Beat the Heat”.

 

If the pilot program is successful, WTVAHCS plans to expand the program to include more medications in the coming years, and potentially make this the standard operating practice for the health care system. WTVACHS estimates savings in the tens of thousands of dollars from this year’s campaign. Once the feedback from the Veterans, cost analysis, and efficacy of the program is evaluated, WTVAHCS will begin planning for next year.

 

WTVAHCS provides fills more than 20,000 prescriptions monthly, to its more than 13,000 Veterans, across its 55,000 square mile catchment area.

 

Veterans who rely on temperature-sensitive medications, such as insulin, normally receive a 30-day supply of medications at a time in small shipping coolers packed with ice. This method of shipping works well in most circumstances. However, when the summer temperatures reach highs in excess of 100 degrees for days on end, this method of shipping does not always protect the medications inside.

 

WTVAHCS provides fills more than 20,000 prescriptions monthly, to its more than 13,000 Veterans, across its 55,000 square mile catchment area

 

If the pilot program is successful, WTVAHCS plans to expand the program to include more medications in the coming years, and potentially make this the standard operating practice for the health care system. WTVACHS estimates savings in the tens of thousands of dollars from this year’s campaign. Once the feedback from the Veterans, cost analysis, and efficacy of the program is evaluated, WTVAHCS will begin planning for next year.

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