Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

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...

Report
May 8, 2015

Mustard Disaster at Bari

.PDF | 107.26 KB

Bari lies along the Adriatic Sea at the top of the heel of the boot of Italy (See Figure 1). During World War II, the port of Bari was under the jurisdiction of the British and was the main supply base for General Montgomery’s Eighth Army as well as the headquarters for the American Fifteenth Air Force which was activated in November 1943.

Report
Jan 1, 2015

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 11 - November 2015

.PDF | 1.37 MB

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Rates of acute respiratory illnesses of infectious and allergic etiologies after permanent changes of duty assignments, active component, U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, January 2005–September 2015; ...

Report
Jan 1, 2015

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 10 - October 2015

.PDF | 1.01 MB

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Chikungunya infection in DoD healthcare beneficiaries following the 2013 introduction of the virus into the Western Hemisphere, 1 January 2014 to 28 February 2015; Update: Cold weather injuries, active and ...

Report
Jan 1, 2015

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 12 - December 2015

.PDF | 862.38 KB

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Follow-up analysis of the incidence of acute respiratory infections among enlisted service members during their first year of military service before and after the 2011 resumption of adenovirus vaccination of ...

Report
Jan 1, 2015

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 5 - May 2015

.PDF | 481.95 KB

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Incidence of joint replacement among active component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2004-2014; Case series: Chikungunya and dengue at a forward operating location; Tdap vaccination coverage during ...

Report
Jan 1, 2015

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 1 - January 2015

.PDF | 985.25 KB

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Update: malaria, U.S. Armed Forces, 2014; Influenza A(H3N2) outbreak at Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, 2014; Incidence of Salmonella infections among service members of the active and reserve components ...

Report
Jan 1, 2015

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 2 - February 2015

.PDF | 2.04 MB

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Whither the "signature wounds of the war" after the war: estimates of incidence rates and proportions of TBI and PTSD diagnoses attributable to background risk, enhanced ascertainment, and active war zone ...

Report
Jan 1, 2015

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 8 - August 2015

.PDF | 542.02 KB

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Update: Routine screening for antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus, civilian applicants for U.S. military service and U.S. Armed Forces, active and reserve components, January 2010-June 2015; Durations of ...

Report
Jan 1, 2015

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 6 - June 2015

.PDF | 739.84 KB

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Update: Accidental drownings, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2005-2014; Risk of mental health disorders following an initial diagnosis of postpartum depression, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1998 ...

Report
Jan 1, 2015

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 7 - July 2015

.PDF | 1.21 MB

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Epidemiology, microbiology, and antibiotic susceptibility patterns of skin and soft tissue infections, Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland, Texas, 2012-2014; Post-deployment screening and referral for risky ...

Report
Jan 1, 2015

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 9 - September 2015

.PDF | 2.17 MB

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Assessment of ICD-9-based case definitions for influenza-like illness surveillance; Incidence of syphilis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 1 January 2010 through 31 August 2015; Brief report: Rate of ...

Report
Jan 1, 2015

MSMR Vol. 22 No. 3 - March 2015

.PDF | 2.12 MB

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Characterizing the relationship between tick bites and Lyme disease in active component U.S. Armed Forces in the eastern United States; Incidence and prevalence of diagnoses of eye disorders of refraction and ...

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
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