Since implementing new strategies in 2011 to improve management of medical supplies and equipment in VA medical centers, the Veterans Health Administration is off to a slow start “and significant concerns remain,” according to the Government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog agency.
For instance, as of December 2012, VHA was pilot testing a new inventory management system, but hasn’t fully funded the pilot, has limited staffing resources to implement it and has not resolved integration issues with legacy systems, according to a GAO report issued in April. The agency also is deploying an electronic tracking system to better locate certain supplies and equipment, but interoperability issues with other inventory management systems haven’t been worked out.
A program office to manage standardization of medical supplies and equipment is being established but is not fully staffed and hiring is on hold pending evaluation of the office’s effectiveness. Further, none of five medical centers visited was fully compliant with new requirements for managing inventories.
There is some progress in the initiative to improve the supply chain, which includes five corresponding networks supporting VA medical centers. One of the five visited medical centers and two networks fully complied in December with new standardization requirements and the remaining centers and networks were partially compliant. Four of the five medical centers and three networks complied with new inventory monitoring requirements.
GAO recommends that VA leadership determine appropriate resource levels, reinforce the need for a formal process of reviewing and approving emergency purchases, use VHA data to track compliance with national contracts and blanket purchase agreements, and implement timelines for interoperability between inventory systems and real-time location systems, among other suggestions.
The GAO report is available here.
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