VA says online scheduling system to go live in January

Veterans will initially be able to schedule primary care appointments by using a new app. And in the future VA officials plan to add optometry, audiology and mental-health.
By Jack McCarthy
08:48 AM
VA online scheduling

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs plans to begin online scheduling of medical appointments nationwide in January of 2017.

With the program, the VA will schedule primary-care appointments for more than 6 million patients through an app on their phones, tablets or computers, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune report.

In the future, VA officials plan to add appointments for optometry, audiology and mental-health.

Neil Evans, MD, chief of the office of connected care for the Veterans Health Administration said the move will be “a huge step forward” for the VA. “I think this is really, really, really important for us to be able to offer,” Evans told the Union-Tribune. 

Kathleen Frisbee, executive director for connected health at the VA’s office of connected care, added that the new software will open up in the agency’s health system for more public inspection as patients view open appointments and choose which times are best for them with the click of a computer mouse.

“I mean, we are exposing our availability to the world,” Frisbee said.

The Union-Tribune reported that for the new system, VA developers first planned to offer online requests for appointments rather than actual scheduling.

But vets who use the VA’s online portal, called MyHealtheVet, advocated for actual do-it-yourself online scheduling, Evans said. In fact, online scheduling was the most requested item of vets using the VA’s online portal.

The portal software cost $3.2 million, and runs on technology infrastructure from Agilex Technologies, now Accenture Federal Services, and the VA’s internal development.

Developing a more efficient scheduling system for veterans has been a sore spot for the VA in recent years.

In May, 2014, then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned after revelations that a VA hospital in Phoenix kept off-the-books lists for veterans waiting for care to hide the long appointment times — up to 115 days to see a primary care doctor — from federal managers overseers in Washington. Evidence emerged that the practice was more widespread.

In April 2016, in the face of growing doubts, the VA put on hold a $624 million contract awarded in August 2015 to Systems Made Simple and Epic to develop a new Medical Appointment Scheduling System. 

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