Weaknesses in management and effective oversight have hindered efforts by the Veterans Affairs Department to replace its outpatient scheduling system, the Government Accountability Office has concluded.
After $127 million, VA starts over on scheduling
In a report released on its website Monday, the GAO chronicles the VA's unsuccessful first attempt to modernize its outpatient scheduling project, otherwise known as the Scheduling Replacement Project.
After spending an estimated $127 million over nine years, “VA has not implemented any of the planned system's capabilities and is essentially starting over,” according to the report.
In trying to improve on its scheduling system, the VA fell short on a number of points. As an example, the department did not adequately plan its acquisition of the scheduling application, nor did it ensure that requirements were sufficiently detailed to guide development of the scheduling system, according to the report.
The VA's progress and status reports also weren't reliable and included data that provided inconsistent views of project performance, the GAO found. In particular, the department failed to conduct oversight of the project for two years after major problems developed.
In other findings, the GAO found that the VA did not effectively “identify, mitigate, and communicate project risks due to, among other things, staff members' reluctance to raise issues to the department's leadership.”
Last October, the VA began a new initiative called HealtheVet Scheduling. To ensure more success with this second attempt to remodel its outpatient scheduling system, the GAO recommended that the VA take half a dozen actions to improve key processes, including acquisition management, system testing and progress reporting.
The VA secretary should ensure that the policies and procedures the department is establishing to provide improved program oversight are executed effectively and that they include “robust collection methods for information on project costs, benefits, schedule, risk assessments, performance metrics and system functionality to support executive decisionmaking,” the GAO recommended.
The VA generally agreed with the GAO's recommendations and said it was taking actions to address those recommendations. Specifically, the VA said it plans to document the milestones and other aspects of the project in an “integrated master schedule” as part of a project management plan that is expected to be completed this month.
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