US Veteran Affairs overhaul includes IT assessment

A senator pushes for a provision that would require the agency to seek private IT advice on its scheduling system

U.S. President Barack Obama has signed legislation focused on overhauling the Department of Veteran Affairs' troubled health-care system, including an IT review of the VA's process of scheduling patients.

The US$16 billion overhaul of the VA health-care system, signed by Obama Thursday, is designed to eliminate long waiting periods for military veterans to get health services at some VA medical centers. In some cases, veterans waiting for doctor's appointments died, according to reports.

Part of the legislation allows for the agency to enlist pro bono assistance of private-sector IT experts to help fix what critics have called a "broken" scheduling system at the VA.

Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who pushed for the IT provisions, praised the legislation. He called it a "huge win" for veterans.

"I'm very, very pleased this law includes my provision to bring in a team of the best and brightest IT experts to work with the VA to more quickly and efficiently provide our veterans with the care and services they have earned," he said in a statement. "Even better, this won't cost tax payers a dime."

A May report from the VA's Office of Inspector General found an antiquated process of scheduling health-care appointments at VA facilities in Phoenix, where reports of significant waiting times first surfaced.

From February 2013 until March, veterans who called the help line to enroll in the Phoenix health-care system and get an initial primary-care appointment first had their information collected by a help-line staff member. The help-line worker would collect the patient information on a computerized system, then print out a screen shot.

The screen shots would then go to other workers to enter the information into the VA's separate electronic wait list, according to the report. The process of printing out the veterans' health-care information and re-entering it into a new system resulted in frequent "delays and backlogs," with patients told the process would take three to five months, the IG's report said.

Warner and the Northern Virginia Technology Council, a trade group of Virginia IT vendors, had worked with the VA and the White House for several weeks to design a "workable plan" for private IT consulting help for the agency, Warner said in a statement.

Warner's provision requires the VA's secretary to enlist a task force of technology companies to review "the needs of the department with respect to the scheduling system and scheduling software," and to report within 45 days with specific actions to improve scheduling and software. The provision requires the VA secretary to implement these recommendations within one year of receiving the pro bono assessment.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. Department of Veteran AffairsGovernment use of ITNorthern Virginia Technology CouncilMark WarnergovernmentBarack Obama

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?