- The Department of Veterans Affairs will announce an expansion of its Epic scheduling software pilot program in upcoming weeks, Politico reports.
- In testimony Wednesday before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, VA Secretary David Shulkin indicated the Epic pilot will go beyond Idaho as the agency continues to test the software and three options — the VA’s in-house VistA, a mobile-friendly solution by Document Storage Systems and Mobile Veterans Appointment Request app, which is currently in use at 99 sites.
- Shulkin acknowledged the lack of a line item for IT in the VA’s 2018 budget, telling committee members the department will make a formal funding after its chooses an EHR on July 1.
The VA has been under pressure to replace its outdated patient records system with a fully automated system and to keep up with health IT products in general. While the VA is eyeing the potential time and money savings better IT could bring, government agencies are notoriously slow to innovate.
A $624 million contract with Epic and Lockheed Martin to implement Epic’s MASS physician scheduling product was put on hold in April 2016 to test a cheaper upgrade using VistA. Compared with MASS, the in-house system could be implemented nationwide for $6.4 million. The agency is now considering other software products as well.
The department has been in the hot seat since it was revealed that up to 40 veterans died while awaiting care at a Phoenix VA hospital. An April 2016 analysis by USA Today of more than 70 reports from the VA Office of Inspector General found supervisors instructed staff at VA hospitals and clinics in at least seven states to tweak patient wait times in reports to the agency.
Efforts to move to a fully electronic system have cut wait times and improved accuracy of patent claims, but the quicker processing has also raised concerns about fraud and waste.
The VA has also been struggling with improving access for veterans in rural areas, who are often hours away from a VA facility. The agency has worked to allow those veterans to receive care from local providers, which presents other technical problems.