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VA Epic Scheduling System Implementation May Be Under Budget

Pilot project leaders predict the VA Epic scheduling system implementation will cost $300 million less than expected.

The VA Epic scheduling system will likely cost $300 million less than pilot project officials expected.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- The VA Epic scheduling system implementation will likely be completed in two years and cost less than $350 million, Leidos Vice President for Veterans Health Will Johnson told Wisconsin State Journal.

Leidos is partnering with Epic on the pilot project, which was initially slated to be a five-year, $624 million implementation contract.

He anticipates the rollout at all VA hospitals and clinics nationwide will ultimately take less than half the time for a little over half the price.

This positive prediction follows a successful initial launch at VA care sites in Columbus, Ohio.

“We communicated to the VA that we are able to do a national deployment in 24 months,” Johnson told Wisconsin State Journal. “We can do that for less than $350 million.”

Epic won the scheduling system implementation contract with Leidos subsidiary Systems Made Simple in 2015.

Epic maintained the scheduling system contract win after VA selected Cerner to provide a $10 billion EHR replacement for the homegrown legacy VistA system. 

Epic and Leidos began developing software for the scheduling system in June 2017 to serve a Columbus VA outpatient clinic and four smaller clinics in surrounding communities.

Johnson explained that an earlier plan to launch a test run for the scheduling system in Boise, Idaho was delayed and ultimately scrapped for an unknown reason.

The pilot project team developed the Epic scheduling system solution in 10 months. The system first went live on April 9, 2018.

“I’m very excited to state the program has gone exceedingly well,” said Johnson. “It was on time and on budget.”

“In an environment where things often run over budget, we are very proud of that,” he added.

Microsoft hosts the cloud-based scheduling system.

“It was never our intention of using every single dollar,” said Johnson.

While the scheduling software has already gone live in Ohio, Johnson said there is no guarantee VA will move forward with the nationwide implementation. However, Johnson is confident the scheduling system would positively affect administrative operations at the federal agency if the project is carried out.

“We believe it will absolutely make a difference for veterans across the U.S. if we’re allowed to execute this program,” said Johnson.

VA employees and clinicians have been working with the new scheduling system for more than ten weeks. Group Practice Manager Joanne Kusko told Wisconsin State Journal that staff members largely approve of the system so far.

“The schedulers love it,” Kusko said. “There are still some little bugs we’re working out; it’s not perfect yet.”

The new scheduling system is easier to use because staff can schedule appointments using solely the provider’s name rather than additional information such as the clinic or care site where that provider works. Under the previous program, administrative staff could only set up appointments if they knew the provider and the clinic name.

The new system is resource-based rather than clinic-based, Kusko said. As a result, appointments are only made if the necessary equipment is available to service patients.

“If an EKG machine is broken, we take it out of the equation,” Kusko said. “That alone has helped quite a bit.”

The VA care site in Columbus includes 1,300 employees serving about 43,000 patients.

Kusko also said providers and veterans appreciate the Epic MyChart patient portal. Using MyChart, providers can schedule appointments easily online and quickly cancel appointments.

VA will review and assess the effectiveness of the new scheduling system next month, Kusko said.

“I feel like there’s some improvement, but we’ll see,” she said.

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