VA Reform, Reorganization Plans Include Several Health IT Proposals

November 12, 2014 in News

The Department of Veterans Affairs has proposed several health IT initiatives as part of its plans to improve veterans’ access to health care and other services, Health Data Management reports (Goedert, Health Data Management, 11/11).

The efforts come after an initial audit found that staff at more than 100 VA health clinics across the U.S. used methods other than the department’s official electronic appointment tracking system to make it appear that veterans had shorter wait times for care (iHealthBeat, 9/10).

Reorganization Plan

On Monday, VA Secretary Robert McDonald provided an update on the department’s reorganization plan to help veterans gain easier access to the agency and its benefits.

As part of the reorganization plan, called “MyVA,” McDonald said the department would work to streamline a dozen or so benefits websites — some of which require separate usernames and passwords — so that veterans have just one username and password for all VA benefits sites.

The plan overall aims to develop one customer service structure led by a chief customer service officer with a limited number of regional divisions to help veterans locate VA services, compared with the nine regional structures currently in place (Daly, “Newshour,” AP/PBS, 11/10).

In addition, sources affiliated with VA told FCW that the reorganization will centralize procurement for telehealth and application development under VA’s Office of Information and Technology. While IT procurement and product design currently are housed under the office, telehealth and app development are not, according to FCW (Mazmanian, FCW, 11/7).

McDonald in a statement last week said that the reorganization plan aims to provide veterans with “a seamless, integrated and responsive customer service experience — whether they arrive at VA digitally, by phone or in person.”

McDonald said he would like to complete the restructuring within one year (“Newshour,” AP/PBS, 11/10).

Additional IT Efforts

As part of its reform efforts outlined last week in a department report, VA also said it:

  • Has posted waiting lists and average wait time data for each VA health center nine times since June;
  • Is publishing quality and safety data for each health center;
  • Intends to release a request for proposal for new appointment scheduling software and “expects an interim milestone towards this acquisition in spring 2015″; and
  • Plans to update its VistA electronic health record system, in part to ensure “seamless health care data interoperability with the Department of Defense” (Health Data Management, 11/11).
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