Skip to main content

Military Health System

Important Notice about Pharmacy Operations

Change Healthcare Cyberattack Impact on MHS Pharmacy Operations. Read the statement to learn more. 

After Leading Through the Pandemic, TRICARE Pharmacy Chief Retires

Image of Curbside Pharma. At the start of the pandemic, a curbside pharmacy service was initially offered as an additional health protection measure to minimize foot traffic and help to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Air Force Col. Markus Gmehlin faced a massive and urgent task: adapting the TRICARE Pharmacy system to ensure that everyone could get access to their medications – but to also avoid packing people into pharmacy waiting rooms and potentially further spreading the virus.

Gmehlin, the chief of TRICARE Pharmacy for the Defense Health Agency, said the top priority was safety.

"We wanted to have some good standard guidance to maintain staff and patient safety. That was first and foremost," he recalled.

The next challenge to address was how to continue providing the medication that beneficiaries need.

"We wanted to maintain access to care for all of our patients, especially for maintenance medications, like high cholesterol meds, heart medications — things that people need on an ongoing basis."

"We looked at the various military Medical Treatment Facilities to figure out who had the leading practices," he said.

Early in the pandemic, many of the military hospitals and clinics began offering drive-up and curbside pharmacy service. Beneficiaries called pharmacy personnel from outside the pharmacy, then the pharmacy personnel carried the medication out to the patient and offered curbside counseling.

That worked, in the sense that patients would never have to physically enter the pharmacy.

But Gmehlin said it was not a sustainable plan, due to safety concerns, temperature extremes, and weather conditions.

So Gmehlin and his team initiated a set of new pharmacy programs that have transformed the pharmacy system, including the "Q–Anywhere" and "ScriptCenters" programs. Those changes have proven to be highly successful and will likely remain permeant components of the pharmacy system.

Gmehlin is finishing a 30-year military medical career, with an official retirement date of June 1. In his final role, he led the delivery of a $10 billion annual pharmacy program across the Military Health System. And he worked with the Pentagon's Health Affairs team and DHA leadership, and often interacted with industry groups.

In a recent interview, he reflected on his time with DHA.

"If I have done anything, it's that we got the right team built to keep the program moving forward," he said.

"We've got some great folks," he said. "They understand that we just cannot maintain the status quo and that we need to constantly reevaluate our program to figure out how do we do it smarter, more efficiently, and how do we align with civilian or commercial best practices."

Q–Anywhere

"What we implemented was a remote pharmacy check-in capability," Gmehlin said. The process started in the fall of 2020, and is currently deployed at 50 military hospitals and clinics.

With Q-Anywhere, beneficiaries scan a QR code to activate processing of new prescriptions. The phone-based app prompts them to "get in line," by entering their Defense Department identification number, which activates their prescriptions. The beneficiary receives a confirmation text message. When the prescription is ready for pickup, another text message is sent. When beneficiaries arrive for pick up, they show pharmacy personnel the code on their phone.

"Huge reduction in people waiting around and it has been tremendous for customer satisfaction. Folks are thrilled," he said.

ScriptCenters

Also implemented during that timeframe in 2020 were the "ScriptCenters."

Gmehlin described this option as an "Amazon-type locker." Patients can choose this option, which allows them to scan their ID at the designated ScriptsCenter, wait for the assigned locker door to pop open, and then retrieve their medication out of the locker. There are 90 units at 76 different locations. Some locations have ScriptsCenters at the base or post exchange, or at another location inside the hospital.

Both Q-Anywhere and the Scripts Center required planning with the pharmacy operations division, which has four branches. One branch is the Informatics Integration Branch, which works all the information technology projects. When new COVID support funding became available, the team strategized on the tools and products that would be most useful.

"Then we worked with the service leadership and each of the MTFs to determine if they were interested or not interested," Gmehlin said.

Gmehlin hopes the long-term impact of his job is that people understand the good things that come out of the pharmacy program, what people are working on, and how they try to create a sustainable benefit, while at the same time increasing access to various medications.

"The neat thing is when the DHA journey started, there were three separate health systems: Army, Navy and Air Force. And everybody had a different way to do things, -- different outcomes, different everything. The exciting thing is working with the services to now unify three separate systems, or cultures into one, and incorporating the best that everybody brings. It has been great to see a single system that comes together to provide the best care."

"At the end of the day, it is about how do we provide best outcomes and health for our amazing beneficiaries."

You also may be interested in...

Article Around MHS
Aug 28, 2023

Army Reserve-led Mountain Medic Soars to New Heights

U.S. Army Reserve critical care flight paramedics from 5-159th General Support Aviation Battalion, 244th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, Army Reserve Aviation Command, guide U.S, Air Force Reserve medical personnel from the 302nd Airlift Wing in offloading a casualty from a HH-60 MEDEVAC Black Hawk during exercise Mountain Medic at Fort Carson, Colorado, on Aug. 14, 2023. Mountain Medic is an Army Reserve-led joint, multi-component, multi-domain aeromedical evacuation exercise geared at improving and reenforcing medical evacuation operations in a simulated large-scale combat operations environment. (U.S. Army Reserve Photo by Master Sgt. Joy Dulen)

The third iteration of the fast-paced joint operation known as Mountain Medic 2023 was conducted in August 2023. Against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, the exercise aimed at improving and reinforcing medical evacuation operations and skill sets while pushing its medics, pilots, and aircrews nonstop in austere environments set for large-scale ...

Article Around MHS
Aug 23, 2023

MHSRS 2023 Kicks Off with Powerful Message: Medical Readiness for the Future Fight

Team members from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command's Medical Material Development Activity - Broad Spectrum Snakebite Antidote (BSSA) program, receive the Military Health System Research Symposium 2023 Outstanding Research Accomplishment award in team/program management in Kissimmee, Florida on August 14, 2023.  (Photo: Danae Johnson)

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Lester Martinez-López kicked off the 2023 Military Health System Research Symposium with a keynote speech on the morning of August 14, delivering powerful words to the more than 4,000 people attending the event. Weaving his heartfelt sentiments into an overall call for action, Martinez put the ...

Article Around MHS
Aug 17, 2023

Naval Medical Research & Development Researchers Participate in Undersea Operational Research Panel at MHSRS

Panel presenters for the Undersea Operational Research panel at the 2023 Military Health System Research Symposium

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Medical researchers from the Naval Medical Research & Development (NMR&D) enterprise specializing in undersea health met for a panel during the 2023 Military Health System Research Symposium (MHRSR) on Aug.15.

Article Around MHS
Aug 10, 2023

U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity Logisticians, Reserve Soldiers, Army Logistics Support Capstone Hospital Conversion Effort in Northern California’s High Desert

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers from across the 807th Medical Command inventory newly fielded medical equipment inside a storage warehouse at Sierra Army Depot, California, on July 19, 2023. Members of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency, and soldiers with the 807th MCDS began an inventory of medical supplies this week as part of a capstone field hospital conversion mission for eight Army Reserve medical commands belonging to the 801st Combat Support Hospital. (Photo: T. T. Parish/U.S. Army)

The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, partnering with the Army Reserve’s 807th Medical Command, reached a milestone in its yearslong efforts to support U.S. Army Reserve medical commands last week, starting the final hospital conversion at the Sierra Army Depot in California.

Article Around MHS
Aug 7, 2023

Naval Medical Center San Diego Uses Robotics System for Total Knee Arthroplasty

Sailors attached to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command in San Diego use the 3D model from the Stryker Mako system while conducting a total knee arthroplasty in the main operating room. NMRTC‘s mission is to prepare service members to deploy in support of operational forces, deliver high-quality health care services and shape the future of military medicine through education, training, and research. (Photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raphael McCorey)

Naval Medical Center San Diego continues to lead in medical technology being the first Navy Medical Treatment Facility military hospital to conduct a total knee arthroplasty utilizing the Mako Robotics system. The Stryker Mako system is a state-of-the-art robotic arm that uses haptic technology, or commonly referred to as 3D touch, to achieve high ...

Article Around MHS
Jul 24, 2023

Expeditionary Medical Facility Kilo Completes Readiness Exercise, Earns Deployment-Ready Status

Expeditionary Medical Facility Kilo successfully completed its Operational Readiness Evaluation in Camp Pendleton, California, June 14-21. Approximately 134 EMF Kilo personnel trained in setting up and operating a 50-bed, medical treatment facility. (Photo: U.S. Navy HM2 James Comick, Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute)

Expeditionary Medical Facility Kilo successfully completed its Operational Readiness Evaluation. The focus of the ORE held in Camp Pendleton, California was testing the command’s ability to stand up a fully functional field hospital, capable of operating when deployed at any location around the world.

Article Around MHS
Jul 7, 2023

Fate Brings Accident Victim to Brooke Amy Medical Center for Groundbreaking Procedure

Madisyn Cardenas, center, is pictured with her family after a graduation ceremony for her sister Larissa Sanchez at Texas A&M University in Kingsville, Texas, on May 12. From left, dad Stephen Cardenas, brother Stevie Cardenas, sister Larissa Sanchez, Madisyn Cardenas, mother Jennifer Cardenas, sister Natalie Villarreal. Cardenas was severely injured in a roadside accident on Oct. 5, 2022 and brought to Brooke Army Medical Center for a groundbreaking procedure. (Photo Courtesy Department of Defense)

After being struck by a car, Madisyn Cardenas had a torn aorta, broken hip, pinky finger, pelvis, and clavicle; lacerated tongue; separated abdomen; kidney lacerations; colon tear; brain hematoma; and multiple cuts, bruises, and puncture wounds. “The scariest of all was a tear in my aorta that went undetected until my arrival at Brooke Army Medical ...

Article Around MHS
Jun 28, 2023

88th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Focused on ‘Fit to Fight’ Force

Brenda Couch watches over U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ron Sparkman, a student at the 155th medical group with the Nebraska National Guard, as he checks vitals on an airman during training at Wright-Patterson Medical Center on June 13. Operational Medical Readiness Squadron was this month’s pick for “Dominate the Dirty Work,” a series of stories offering an in depth look at the hard working and dedicated individuals that often go unseen. (Photo: Kenneth J. Stiles, U.S. Air Force)

The 88th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron provides direct support to U.S. Air Force operations by promoting and sustaining force health, preventing injury and illness, restoring health, and elevating human performance. Its top priority is ensuring airmen and military members are medically ready to execute their missions at home-base and deployed ...

Article Around MHS
Jun 15, 2023

24 Nations Unite at Military Nursing Exchange to Enhance USAFE-AFAFRICA Partnerships, Readiness

Polish Air Force Medic, 1st Lt. Marzena Dudaryk, administers Tactical Combat Casualty Care during a simulation session at the U.S Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa European-African Military Nurses Exchange Conference on May 31, 2023.

Nurses and medical professionals from 24 allied and partner nations, including the U.S., converged at the U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa 2023 European-African Military Nursing Exchange conference, May 31 – June 2, to share medical knowledge and professional best practices with one another.

Last Updated: July 11, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery