Despite extensive attention and funding to address the failure of the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide accurate data on the time it takes to see a patient, the new audit misleads the Department of Veterans Affairs in a public report. It turns out that it is still dependent on the information.
Deceptive practices to hide true waiting times are a national scandal in 2014 and multiple legislative changes aimed at increasing transparency and enabling veterans to receive medical care more quickly. It led to. VA has launched two public websites to show the delays patients and stakeholders may face when scheduling appointments. audit Department inspectors released Thursday found that they were inconsistently reporting data in a way that obscured true wait times.
The problem arises when the VA starts the clock about the time the veterans have to wait for care. In accordance with federal law and regulations, websites launched in 2014 use the “request date” as a starting point, or when a clinician or patient requests that an appointment be made. Another site launched in 2017, Access to careHowever, it depends on the “creation date” of the new patient, that is, the date the scheduler actually makes the appointment.
As an example, IG said in one case a veteran was seen by a doctor on June 28, 2021. The doctor suggested that the patient see a cardiologist on the same day as the “request date” so that the patient could be scheduled as soon as possible. .. The VA scheduler didn’t actually book the appointment set for early September of the year for nearly a month. As a result, the wait time was recorded as only 43 days instead of the actual total of 66 days.
Last year, the then Deputy Secretary of Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs admitted to IG that the Department of Veterans Affairs had never addressed the issue of how to measure latency. IG has exempted individuals from cheating, but wanted to issue an alert so that the VA administrator could address the issue.
“Calculation of waiting time is complicated and [the Veterans Health Administration] Consistently implement appropriate methodologies that transparently and accurately reflect the time patients wait for appointments, “says IG. “As a result, VHA may present wait times in different ways, with inconsistent start dates that affect the overall calculation, without presenting information generally clearly and accurately. bottom.”
Mark Ballesteros, a spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the Department of Veterans Affairs has consistently “strives to do more” to increase transparency. Part of the process is to “standardize booking scheduling methods to ensure uniform and timely access to care for all veterans, regardless of location or type of care. “He added.
The Veterans Health Administration is committed to developing a clearer and more consistent system to appreciate OIG reviews, measure access and latency, and build on the transparency of public reports. “Ballesteros said.
IG is aware of this issue and has been discussing making changes to the process since 2019, but has not yet made any adjustments. In addition to providing misleading information to Congress and veterans, contradictions can cause problems with the eligibility of private sector care for government dimes. Veterans can use these services based in part on booking latency, but VA uses a different calculation.
“Inconsistent use of start dates to calculate latency can be misleading and can lead to inaccurate reports,” says IG.