'Daily Show' mocks VA's outdated IT

Late night has a field day lambasting '80s-era systems
By Mike Miliard
11:17 AM

There's little to laugh about when it comes to the VA hospital scandal. But Jon Stewart mined some dark comedy Tuesday night as he mocked a health system whose technology dates to the Reagan Administration.

Way back in 1945, as World War II wound down, President Harry Truman said that the "Veterans Administration will be modernized, and that should be done as soon as possible."

Well, that happened – eventually. Countless computers were installed system-wide over subsequent decades and the VistA electronic health record evolved into a pioneering medical information system.

But as Comedy Central's The Daily Show pointed out last night, in many corners of the VA, mission-critical technology hasn't been updated since the mid-1980s.

As debate rages about the scheduling failures that have led to delayed care and numerous deaths at VA facilities, Stewart pointed his finger at one culprit: hoary old IT systems.

The show played a clip of Democratic Florida Rep. Corrine Brown asking a VA official: "A lot of the equipment, the technology that the veterans have, is outdated ... could that affect part of the scheduling problems?"

A reasonable question, Stewart interjected: "Perhaps the VA's laptops and iPads are still running on Panther, when they should be running on OS Maverick."

Cut to another clip of VA Assistant Deputy Undersecretary Philip Matkovsky at the Congressional hearing, looking glum.

"Our scheduling system scheduled its first appointment in April of 1985," he said. "It has not changed in any appreciable manner since that date."

Stewart looked aghast.

"1985? You're running OS Tandy-1000? Your system can't process claims, but it can print an all-text picture of Snoopy!"

Again, he pounced: "1985? Are you kidding? Have you ever caught that movie The Net on late night cable, and laughed out loud about how outdated the technology seems? That's 10 years more advanced than what the VA is currently using!"

Watch the clip here: