In an effort to reduce wait times for medical care, the Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded health IT vendor Document Storage Systems a $19.6 million contract to provide a mobile-based, commercial off-the-shelf patient self-scheduling system as part of a VA pilot program.

The Faster Care for Veterans Act of 2016 directed the agency to launch an 18-month pilot under which veterans could use a website or mobile app to schedule and confirm medical appointments at VA facilities. The law requires that the pilot be rolled out to at least three Veterans Integrated Service Networks.

The VA’s pilot will leverage the DSS ForSite2020 scheduling software, which will be integrated with the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), enabling users to schedule and confirm primary care, specialty care and mental health appointments through a mobile device or computer. The app will enable patients to request, schedule, confirm, modify or cancel appointments 24 hour per day.

“The VA is making critical improvements to veteran healthcare and will always look to leverage innovative tools that will put more capabilities in the hands of Veterans,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD. “Self-scheduling apps are widely used in the private sector and will help create a better experience for veterans and their medical care providers.”

David Shulkin

Currently, the agency is pursuing a dual-track modernization approach to its medical appointment scheduling by investing in commercial as well as VA-developed systems. According to the VA’s Office of Veterans Access to Care, it is working to improve both external “veteran-facing” and internal “scheduler-facing” scheduling apps.

Also See: VA takes two-pronged approach to deploy appointment software

Besides the commercial veteran-facing Faster Care mobile app from DSS, the VA has deployed its internally developed Veterans Appointment Request (VAR) app to nearly 100 sites nationally.

“VA’s Mobile Veterans Appointment Request app, currently available at 99 sites, also provides most of the key capabilities required by the Faster Care for Veterans Act and is modeled after successful mobile applications used for patient scheduling,” according to an agency statement. “VA intends to continue development of VAR to incorporate new capabilities.”

The Veterans Appointment Request app makes it possible for veterans to self-schedule primary care appointments and request assistance in booking both primary care and mental health appointments at the VA facilities where they receive care. In addition to scheduling appointments, the app is able to track appointment details and the status of requests, send messages about requested appointments and receive notifications and cancel appointments.

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