- A nascent Veterans Affairs effort to digitally track medical equipment is at risk of “catastrophic failure,” the Austin American-Statesman reported.
- The newspaper quotes VA officials last year stating the department’s $543 million contract with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services to implement a real-time locating system (RTLS) was plagued by problems from failed operational tests, questions about reliability of equipment tags and basic concerns about the VA’s WiFi capacity to support the system.
- In a statement to the American-Statesman, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) called the RTLS problems “concerning” and said they “fit a 20-year pattern of VA struggling to manage its supply chain.” The system was intended to go live last month but projections now are shooting for a go-live date of June 2018, the American-Statesman reported.
The revelation marks another health IT challenge for the agency. A February report by the Government Accountability Office found overall management challenges throughout VA IT projects and programs. Roe has also called for an investigator to examine the department’s IT efforts.
President Trump made reimagining the VA system a priority of the new White House Office of American Innovation, headed by son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner. Since Barack Obama's administration, the department has been immersed in scandal over disability claims and scheduling backlogs that revealed a pattern of wait-time falsification at the agency.
The VA is on the brink of switching to a new EHR system. Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee cleared a fiscal year 2018 spending bill that includes $65 million for EHR modernization. Under the modernization plan, Cerner will provide EHR services, though Epic Systems will continue to be used for online appointment scheduling. As part of spending provisions, lawmakers are asking for a detailed account of the Cerner solicitation, interoperability with Department of Defense and VA providers and costs of long- and short-term costs of implementing the new EHR.
Supply chain management is critical for providers. From knowing certain drug supplies to having simple tools such as wound dressings on hand is imperative to run operations smoothly. While digitally tracking medical equipment can add efficiencies to a system, gaps and oversights in the supply chain could lead to a provider running out of supplies or cancelling appointments because of not having the necessary tools to perform care services.