By Benjamin Goad - 08/25/14 06:06 PM EDT
The Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday it is poised to solicit bids from companies who can offer a “cutting-edge” replacement for the agency's "antiquated" appointment scheduling system.
The action comes as the VA seeks to repair its image following a scandal that rocked the agency and forced the ouster of its top official. Former Secretary Eric Shinseki stepped down in May following audits concluding that department officials covered up long patient wait times at more than 100 facilities.
Newly installed VA Secretary Robert McDonald said a modernized scheduling system would “free up more human resources to focus on direct veterans’ care.”
“As VA recommits to its mission of caring for Veterans and evaluating our actions through the lens of what serves them best, we know a better scheduling system is necessary to provide them the timely, quality health care that they have earned and deserve,” McDonald said in a statement that does not mention the scandal.
The move comes as the VA prepares to unveil a host of sweeping changes meant to speed care to veterans, according to a report published late Monday by USA Today.
Under the action announced Monday, the VA will issue by the end of next month a draft request for proposals for a new medical appointment scheduling system that utilizes “cutting-edge, management-based scheduling software.”
Vendors will have 30 days to respond.
The initial solicitation will be followed by a second “full RFP” to ensure input from would-be contractors and other interested parties.
“We want this process to be open to all eligible vendors to make sure the Nation’s Veterans have the full benefits the innovative marketplace has to offer,” McDonald said.
The process will involve both a written proposal and a technical demonstration to staff, the agency said. The VA hopes to award a contract by year’s end.