- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced a series of initiatives last Friday aimed at resolving the issue of excessive wait times throughout the VA healthcare system.
- Dr. David Shulkin, the VA's undersecretary of health, said the fixes include a real-time scheduling app and efforts to expand the VA's collaboration with private sector healthcare providers.
- The announcement was made to journalists attending the Association of Health Care Journalists annual conference in Cleveland, Ohio at the same time USA Today was publishing a new report indicating VA wait time data were falsified at the direction of VA officials in at least seven states.
The VA's new initiative, MyVA Access, includes the goal of offering veterans same-day access for mental health and primary care services when medically necessary at all VA medical centers by the end of 2016. That arrangement is currently available at 34 VA facilities, Shulkin said.
He also detailed the VA's new smart phone app, the Veteran Appointment Request App, which allows veterans to schedule and cancel appointments, track appointment requests, and review future appointments. The app is currently being used in 10 locations and is expected to be rolled out to all veterans by early 2017.
Further, a website update will let veterans check wait times in real time, and new scheduling software being tested at 10 sites should reduce scheduling errors and improve the VA’s ability to track healthcare supply and demand.
Shulkin highlighted the VA has already increased its workload by 10% over the past two years in order to prioritize wait time reduction. “That translates to 20 million additional provider hours,” Shulkin was quoted by Buffalo Business First. “I don’t know of another healthcare system, and I’ve never worked in one – that has increased its workload capacity by 10% over this period of time. It’s pretty significant.”
Another major component to the VA's efforts is a request to Congress to update the Veterans Choice program to allow veterans to seek care outside the VA system.