VA to go live with online appointment scheduling in January

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs expects to be able to roll out new app software nationwide to enable online appointment scheduling beginning this January.

Patients initially will be able to set up primary-care appointments via an app that will be available on their computers, phones or tablets, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The agency will look to extend that functionality to optometry, audiology and mental-health appointments.

Kathleen Frisbee, executive director for connected health at the VA’s office of connected care, tells the Union-Tribune that the software will boost transparency in the agency’s health system. It will allow patients to view open appointments and choose which times best suit their needs.

“I mean, we are exposing our availability to the world,” Frisbee says.

At various Capitol Hill hearings throughout the year, Department of Veterans Affairs CIO LaVerne Council discussed the agency's scheduling plight, touting the potential of inexpensive options. The cost of development, via a combination of internal efforts and work by Accenture Federal Services (previously Agilex Technologies), was $3.2 million, according to the Union-Tribune.

That’s a far cry from the $624 million contract awarded in August 2015 to Systems Made Simple and Epic to develop a new Medical Appointment Scheduling System.

Scheduling issues have been a problem for the VA for years. For instance, an investigative report in 2014 found that as many as 40 military veterans died while waiting for treatment at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System, and were part of a “secret waiting list” designed to hide about 1,500 ailing veterans who waited for months at a time to see a doctor.

The VA's Office of Inspector General has continually published the results from its wait-time investigation.