Health IT

How VA hopes to fix its scheduling system

Robert McDonald

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald: "We want this process to be open to all eligible vendors to make sure the nation's veterans have the full benefits the innovative marketplace has to offer."

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which is in the midst of overhauling its culture, processes and technology after criticism over long wait times for appointments and scandal involving senior employees juking statistics to qualify for bonuses, announced on Aug. 25 that it would open bidding on a planned new, commercial scheduling system by the end of September.

According to an agency release, vendors will have 30 days to submit bids. Early next year, while the scheduling procurement is ongoing, the VA plans to implement a new scheduling interface that looks like a calendar as an improvement over the existing text-based viewer. Other planned interim improvements include a mobile app that veterans can use to request appointments and a separate app for schedulers, both expected to be released in December.

The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which became law earlier this month, requires the VA to report to Congress on "proposals for specific actions to be taken...to improve the scheduling system and scheduling software," and specifically seeks a determination on whether an existing commercial, off-the-shelf system would fit the bill. While the VA held a Challenge.gov contest in 2013 to solicit ideas for an open source scheduling solution, awarding more than $3 million in prizes, the law and the new leadership appear to be pushing the agency toward a more-traditional commercial approach.

"We want this process to be open to all eligible vendors to make sure the nation's veterans have the full benefits the innovative marketplace has to offer," said VA Secretary Robert McDonald in a statement.

The VA plans to put out a draft request for proposals before a formal solicitation is issued. The final RFP will require vendors to submit written proposals and demo their product for VA staff. An award is expected by the end of 2014.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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Reader comments

Sat, Aug 30, 2014 Clam Chowda

With such a short turn around time you need to ask if the VA didn't already have a certain vendor in mind already. After CoreFLS, do they even know good and bad code when they see it? And if their lastest software picks (VATAS and CGE) are any sign of what they think is better that what they already had, lord help us all.

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