By Debbie Gregory.
Beginning next month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs plans to begin online scheduling of medical appointments nationwide.
The technological advance will allow the scheduling of primary-care appointments for more than 6 million patients via an app on their phones, tablets or computers.
“Do I think this is a huge step forward for the VA? Absolutely,” said Dr. Neil Evans, chief of the office of connected care for the Veterans Health Administration. “I think this is really, really, really important for us to be able to offer.”
Kathleen Frisbee, executive director for connected health at the VA’s office of connected care, added that the new software will open up in the agency’s health system for more public inspection as patients view open appointments and choose which times are best for them with the click of a computer mouse.
“I mean, we are exposing our availability to the world,” Frisbee said.
VA developers had first planned to offer online requests for appointments rather than actual scheduling, but veterans who use the VA’s online portal, called MyHealtheVet, advocated for actual do-it-yourself online scheduling. In fact, online scheduling was the most requested item of vets using the VA’s online portal.
The move comes after the VA scandal in 2014 when a whistleblower in Phoenix revealed that VA schedulers were pressured to fake records to make appointment wait times appear shorter. The new app software promises to remove the VA scheduler from the equation.
The portal software cost $3.2 million, and runs on technology infrastructure from Agilex Technologies, now Accenture Federal Services, and the VA’s internal development.
In the future, VA officials plan to add online appointment scheduling capabilities for optometry, audiology and mental-healthcare.