Navy ditches electronic med dispensing system

The Navy Bureau of Medicine has chosen not to implement an electronic medication dispensing system due to security concerns, according to a recent article in the Jacksonville, N.C.-based Daily News.

The Electronic Medication Management Assistant (EMMA), an FDA class II-approved computerized medication dispenser, can dispense a month's supply of up to 10 different medications for individual patients. A report by the Pentagon inspector general says the technology potentially could help wounded servicemembers with drug abuse problems.

The Wounded Warrior Battalion East at Camp Lejune, however, has expressed frustration at being unable to get approval for it, according to the Daily News. To be approved, the technology must meet requirements that show it is not a threat to system security.

The system hasn't met the Navy's information security and HIPAA protocols, according to the Daily News, because the client information is accessed through a wireless server by the patient's care provider.

Shoshona Pilip-Florea, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, told the newspaper in an email: "Navy Medicine believes claims that the EMMA machine will control abuse and drug-seeking behavior are overstated. EMMA ensures dispensing of doses on schedule, but does not ensure administration or potential for hoarding or diversion of medication."

She added that to combat potential prescription drug abuse, Navy medical facilities have employed strategies such as random pill counts, urine testing, computer-aided profile reviews and limiting the number of pills distributed at one time.

According to a recent NPR story, prescription drug abuse by soldiers is a persistent problem. The article points to a potential solution employed at at Fort Sam Houston in Texas involving an automated computerized patient database.

Meanwhile, faults in the Department of Defense's electronic health record system have crippled drug abuse tracking efforts. The system doesn't allow DoD providers to keep track of prescription medication orders by non-DoD doctors.

To learn more:
- read the Daily News article
- here's the NPR story

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