Veterans Affairs

VA accepts contractors' offer of help with scheduling

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The recently enacted veterans’ health care overhaul, which increased funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs and streamlined the process for firing senior executives, also includes a provision that requires the VA to hear advice from a technology task force on problems with the scheduling system for medical appointments at VA medical centers.

The effort had been long sought by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, and backed by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who wrote to President Barack Obama in June requesting private sector pro bono input on scheduling, based on an earlier effort spurred by the NVTC to improve management of Arlington National Cemetery.

An agreement is in place for a team with participation from Booz Allen Hamilton, HP, IBM, MITRE Corporation and SAIC to begin an assessment of the scheduling system in accordance with the law. The review is due fairly quickly -- within 45 days of the law's Aug. 7 enactment, according to legislative language.

The VA is currently in the midst of a procurement for a commercial, off-the-shelf scheduling system that was announced Aug. 25. A request for proposals is expected to go out by the end of this month. In part because of the tight timeline, the pro bono team is going to focus more on business processes than on software, although the language of the statute specifically calls for proposals for scheduling improvements with an eye to using commercial, off-the-shelf software.

"The NVTC team will be assessing the processes and systems that impact patient scheduling at VA medical facilities. Our assessment will not include recommendations about specific technology products," NVTC President and CEO Bobbie Kilberg told FCW.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald can do what he likes with the advice. The law only specifies that he adopt recommendations he deems "feasible, advisable, and cost effective."

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 and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

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


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