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The proposed $17 billion legislation that would overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs gives weight to two significant information technology initiatives long sought by its proponents.
The VA became the center of much attention this week as the bill, approved by House and Senate negotiators late Monday, was followed Tuesday by the Senate confirmation of Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary.
McDonald, 61, of Cincinnati, will replace Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who assumed the position in May following the resignation of Eric Shinseki in the midst of allegations of protracted veterans' waits for healthcare and of VA employees falsifying records to hide delays.
[See also: Where the HHS 2015 IT budget is headed ... data.]
The VA overhaul bill authorizes the department to accelerate the deployment of mobile clinics through the use of telemedicine, which can allow veterans to avoid traveling long distances and reduce wait time to access medical attention.
Telemedicine is already being used by the VA in limited areas, but the bill would significantly increase its rollout. The VA’s website outlines the agency’s efforts to develop telemedicine.
“VA is now recognized as one of the world leaders in this new area of health care,” the agency said. “Clinical Video Telehealth (CVT) uses … telehealth technologies to make diagnoses, manage care, perform check-ups, and actually provide care.”
VA lists telesurgery, telerehabilitation, telementalhealth, and telecardiology as some of the special services offered.
The proposed overhaul legislation would also compel the VA to refurbish its scheduling software system.
Under the bill, a special task force would study the problems associated with the current system and conduct a survey of other solutions and products and make recommendations for a new system.
If the proposed compromise legislation passes, the VA would have to act on the recommendations within one year.