Audit: Augusta VA schedulers changed appointment times

Thursday, July 31, 2014 11:21 PM
Last updated Friday, Aug 1, 2014 1:50 AM
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More than 15 percent of schedulers at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center said in a nationwide audit of VA scheduling practices that they felt instructed to enter a desired appointment date other than the one patients requested.

The findings, part of a briefing provided to Congress this week, shows that only 21 percent of schedulers reported correct usage of the facility’s waiting list, a success rate that is tied – with the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, Ga. – for lowest among the eight hospitals in the VA’s Southeast Network.

The survey results come as the VA continues to provide twice-monthly updates of how many veterans and newly enrolled patients still wait for initial appointments systemwide.

The latest data released Thursday showed that the Augusta VA has scheduled all of the 133 patients who have gone a decade without requested appointments and that the number of veterans who waited at least 90 days for an appointment has decreased from 63 to 36 in two weeks.

“Director Robert Hamilton and the leadership team here in Augusta are fully engaged in the process to follow through and assure no employee has a doubt about what we expect and Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson demands,” hospital spokesman Pete Scovill said in an e-mail. Scovill said that Hamilton has personally inspected more than 25 clinics at the Augusta VA and that his engagement with staffers has included reinforcement for scheduling rules.

“Director Hamilton noted his full support for the requirement that employees must accurately record a veteran’s ‘desired date’ for an appointment,” Scovill said.

In mid-April, then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki directed the VA to complete a nationwide audit to ensure a full understanding of the VA’s scheduling policy, identify any inappropriate practices and review waiting list management. More than 200 schedulers were interviewed in the department’s Southeast network, and as a result, the VA identified 112 sites – including Augusta – that required further review.

The audit found that only the VA medical centers in Atlanta, Dublin and Birmingham, Ala., had a higher percentage of schedulers who felt they received instruction to enter a desired date other than the ones patients requested.

In the survey, schedulers in Augusta said training, staffing and the VA’s scheduling system “rarely” presented challenges to providing veterans access; instead, they told auditors that a lack of provider slots and the 14-day standard to get patients in for appointment were the biggest problem.

About 70 percent of Augusta schedulers said they were aware of the new enrollee appointment list and followed protocol for scheduling follow-up consultations and reminded patients on the missed-opportunity list of upcoming appointments, each of which ranked among the highest in network.

The audit expressed a concern, however, with new patients, finding that 46 percent of Augusta schedulers don’t correctly assign appointments for walk-ins.

“The facility does not use (an electronic waiting list) for new patients,” the audit read.


Augusta VA patient wait times (in days) as of Thursday:

               NEW    ESTABLISHED
Primary Care                 37                           3 
Specialty care                 48                           5  
Mental health                 44                        0.8 

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

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corgimom 08/01/14 - 12:51 am
I just got an MRI and had to

I just got an MRI and had to wait over 2 weeks to see the doctor to get the results.

And I have to schedule appointments with my orthopedic surgeon 3 months in advance.

Why isn't any Congressperson concerned about that?

There is no way that I, or any of my loved ones, would go 10 years without a scheduled appointment. Obviously, if you haven't been contacted within a couple of weeks, you would call back.

Ultimately, people are responsible for their own health care. Who would ever wait 10 years for an appointment?

But it seems to me that if you could wait 10 years for an appointment, you must not be too ill with that problem.

galaxygrl 08/01/14 - 07:47 am

They put a monitor on my husband in April and found he had a fob. He still hasn't seen a cardiologist and it is August. He had a massive heart attack and 6 stents put in in January of 2013.

jimmymac 08/01/14 - 08:53 am

I tried to schedule a cardio specialist and it took nearly two months for an appointment. The follow up took as long. By the time the procedure was done it was about 6 months. I'm glad it wasn't life threatening or I wouldn't have made it. We need more qualified doctors as our population ages. Give promising students free tuition to go through medical school to encourage them. We need more doctors not useless lawyers.

corgimom 08/02/14 - 02:47 pm
If I had that history of

If I had that history of heart disease, I sure wouldn't wait months to be seen. I wouldn't even wait a week.

For corn's sake, GG, take your husband to a cardiologist!

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