VA launches new scheduling software at Ohio medical facility

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A Department of Veterans Affairs medical center in Ohio is the first to launch a new scheduling software application to plan visits for veterans in need of care — an integral part of the VA’s Electronic Health Record modernization journey.

The new software, officially introduced Aug. 21, will allow health care providers at the VA Central Ohio Healthcare System to schedule appointments in a central software platform, as opposed to the current disparate set of legacy systems that involves manual coordination. Called the Centralized Scheduling System, the VA says it is a “critical” part of the VA’s EHR modernization effort, a $16 billion, 10-year project that has seen recent delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Scheduling at the VA became a controversial topic in 2014 when breakdowns in the previous system lead to delayed care and health care failings.

“VA has delivered an enhanced scheduling system that will benefit Veterans and health care providers,” said acting VA Deputy Secretary Pamela Powers, who has oversight of VA’s EHRM program. “This is another successful launch of a major milestone in the EHRM effort and will optimize Veterans’ access to health care by improving appointment scheduling. CSS also provides an efficient and transparent method of identifying and eliminating double bookings, flagging canceled appointments and maximizing provider time spent with patients.”

The scheduling software is a stand-alone part of VA’s EHR modernization journey. The timeline for fully implementing the software across the hundreds of VA medical centers is five years, at which point it will be merged with the broader Cerner-based cloud system that will replace the legacy Veterans Information System Technology Architecture (VistA).

The VA continues to push forward to launch the full EHR program in Spokane, Washington. The new EHR is scheduled to go live in Washington in October after its original implementation was pushed back when the pandemic hit.

“I am glad to see Cerner complete the rollout of its scheduling software in Columbus, Ohio, and I look forward to leveraging lessons learned from it as we approach the first go-live of the entire electronic health record this fall,” ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Phillip Roe, said in a statement. He added that the current software from the healthcare technology company Epic “worked well.” The new, centralized, software will be from Cerner.

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Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), electronic health records (EHRs), IT Modernization, VA scheduling
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