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Updating medical scheduling systems is hard, just ask the VA

One of larger players in the health IT industry, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), has announced an initiative to change the medical scheduling part of its electronic health record (EHR) system. It’s no small upgrade, however, as the VA health care system serves over 8.3 million veterans a year.

Managing complex business processes, the VA says, is not possible with the current Medical Scheduling Package (MSP) in place, which is part of the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) EHR system, and has been used for over 25 years.

Processes such as making patient scheduling interoperable, as well as including clinical histories in a single view are a key objective. Another priority is to have a scheduling system that can leverage secure communications. Additionally, MSP functionally is important because the federal government uses it to manage care access for veterans.

According to the VA, a new MSP system would link physicians, patients and additional heath care services more efficiently and also develop methods for better care delivery.

“We envision a scheduling system which is a standards-based, modular, extensible and scalable package, certified as compliant and fully interoperable with the ‘golden’ version of VistA now held by the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA),” said the VA in a statement.

Telehealth would also play a role in a new MSP system. In early November, the VA agreed with American Well, a Boston-based telehealth vendor, to host web appointments via its online care service. The online care service uses text chats, phone calls and two-way video.

The VA spent about of $127 million in 2000 for a new scheduling system, but said in a request for information that it failed because of a lack of planning and understanding the value of the system. A Jan. 31, 2012, deadline has been set for vendors to submit proposals for creating a new system, and cost is surely to be a talking point of those negotiations.

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Just ask the #VA -- Updating medical scheduling systems is hard http://t.co/cjh34hlW #HealthIT #HITsm #hcsm #EHR
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Updating medical scheduling systems is hard -- just ask @VeteransHealth http://t.co/cjh34hlW #HealthIT #HITsm #hcsm #EHR #VA
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