VA to replace legacy technology

By Mary Mosquera
06:18 AM

The Department of Veterans Affairs intends to replace its legacy medical scheduling application for its VistA electronic health record system and wants industry feedback about requirements for functionality, system interface and risk reduction.

A modernized system could manage appointments, patient information and coordinate associate services across all VA facilities for a single view of veterans.

The medical scheduling application has been an essential component of the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) and performs multiple interrelated functions to bring patients, clinicians and other resources together. But each facility has its own VistA version. The scheduling package also captures data which enables VA to measure, manage and improve access, quality and efficiency of care, and operating and capital resources.

However, VA’s existing scheduling application is more than 25 years old, “highly inefficient and no longer effectively supports the multiple linkages needed to engage patients, clinicians and ancillary services and support new models of clinical care delivery,” according to a Dec. 21 VA announcement in Federal Business Opportunities. Industry responses to the request for information are due by Jan. 31, 2012.

VA plans the new scheduling system to be standards-based, extensible and scalable and interoperable with the version of VistA held by the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA). VA launched OSEHRA in August to modernize  VistA in open, mobile architecture that uses standard open interfaces and allows for plug-and-play substitutes with competing products, VA said in the announcement. 

The new medical scheduling system will rely on web- and mobile-device services for quick and secure communications with veterans, support for resource allocation decisions based on data, such as adjusting capacity dynamically to meet changing needs.

The new scheduling package will be a highly complex and expensive process. “We expect that process will present significant risks, not just in adding a replacement software package to VistA, but also in affected business processes,” VA said in the request for information. So it anticipates establishing it incrementally to reduce some risks.

For example, in phase 1, a software layer that delivers scheduling system functional enhancement would be installed on top of the current VistA scheduling application. It could provide resource management, automation of business rules, and linkage of appointments within a facility and across facilities. VA may deploy a new scheduling application in phase 2.

VA attempted unsuccessfully to develop a scheduling replacement previously but pulled the plug on the project in 2009 after spending $127 million because the vendor had not delivered planned capabilities, the notice said.