Eight years in the making, VA patient scheduling system founders

Congressman calls hearing to look into failures with $167 million IT project.

Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Eric Shinseki launched a review of the department's information technology programs on March 23, focusing on the $167 million patient scheduling program, which has failed to deliver a usable system after eight years in development, NextGov has learned.

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said at a press briefing on Thursday that either the full committee or the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will schedule a hearing on the near collapse of the Replacement Scheduling Application Development Program, which an internal VA memo said "has not developed a single scheduling capability it can provide to the field, nor is there any expectation of delivery in the near future."

Filner said he wants to hold the hearing before top executives from the Bush administration leave the department at the end of April. The congressman expressed frustration that VA officials did not alert him to problems with the scheduling system, which he first learned about from a March 31 article on NextGov.

Shinseki directed VA staffers provide him with comprehensive review of the scheduling application by April 9, and planned a congressional briefing for April 10, according to internal memos provided to NextGov.

Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said the scheduling system is needed to reduce long patient wait times at VA facilities. The organization released a report in February that said one-quarter of the 105,000 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment at the Veterans Health Administration's 168 medical centers and 800 clinics.

VHA policy says veterans with serious service-related disabilities must be seen by medical staff within 30 days of their requested appointment date. But a September 2007 report by the VA inspector general said 27 percent of the veterans who had to wait more than 30 days for appointments had serious service-related disabilities, such as amputations and panic attacks.

VHA does not have the ability to properly manage canceled appoints, the inspector general said in a December 2008 survey of 10 clinics. This resulted in 4.9 million open appointment slots in 2008 that could have been used by other patients at those clinics, according to the report.

Besides frustrating patients with long wait times, this management dilemma hits VHA in the pocketbook. At the 10 clinics surveyed, the IG determined 830,000 appointments were canceled more than three days in advance, and estimated the cost of those unfilled appointments at $151 annually.

Keith Decker, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Delaware, who wrote a paper on patient scheduling, said developing such a system is a complex task, but not one that should take eight years.

He said the need to schedule patients at multiple clinics and then correlate those appointments with staff schedules is a computational challenge with many variables.

Decker said VA should approach the project in phases, with each part fielded and tested before the next bit of software is rolled out. Since the department has a problem maximizing the use of openings that result from canceled appointments, that might be a good place to start, he said.

Dr. Michael Kussman, VHA undersecretary for health, detailed such an incremental approach in a March 20 memo to Stephen Warren, VA acting assistant secretary for information and technology. The goal was to have a less functional but workable scheduling system fielded by September.

But testing this less functional system resulted in significant failures, Kussman said, and the scheduling program has been suspended while VHA examines alternatives, including the use of a commercial patient scheduling system.

NEXT STORY: Nuke Simulation on the 'Net?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.