Healthcare Business News

VA seeks new scheduling system

By Virgil Dickson
Posted: August 25, 2014 - 8:00 pm ET

The Veterans Affairs Department is planning to launch a search for a contractor to create a new medical appointment scheduling system for the agency.

The federal department plans to release an RFP for the work by the end of September. Vendors will have 30 days to respond from the day of issuance, the VA announced Monday.

“The current VHA Medical Scheduling system is outdated and outmoded,” the agency says in federal documents. “The current scheduling processes do not meet the needs of patients, providers and the VHA scheduling staff.”

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The agency currently uses the scheduling module of its VistA electronic health-record system. While a department audit released in June laid relatively little of the blame for recent veteran healthcare problems at the feet of the system, the department has been moving ahead to replace it.

Scheduling woes are compounded by the current system's inability to distinguish between new and follow-up visits or to document a patient or provider's desired date for a future appointment, the agency has said.

“When we can put a solid scheduling system in place, this will free up more human resources to focus on direct veterans' care,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a release. “As VA recommits to its mission of caring for veterans and evaluating our actions through the lens of what serves them best, we know a better scheduling system is necessary to provide them the timely, quality healthcare that they have earned and deserve.”

As it prepares the RFP, the department is implementing changes to its current system, including providing schedulers a calendar view of resources instead of the current text-based, multiple-screen view. This update is scheduled to begin roll out beginning in January 2015, the agency said.

The VA also is developing mobile applications to allow veterans to directly request certain types of primary care and mental health appointments starting in December 2014.

Follow Virgil Dickson on Twitter: @MHvdickson

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