Monday, November 29, 2010

VA Testing Quicker Access to Medical Records

WASHINGTON (Nov. 29, 2010) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is
working to significantly reduce the average time needed to obtain
health-care records from private physicians with the help of a private
contractor and the Internet to speed claims decisions.

"Innovations that will speed, simplify or improve our services to
Veterans are receiving rigorous tests at VA," said Secretary of Veterans
Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "We are committed to harnessing the best
technology and the brightest minds in the government and private sector
to ensure Veterans receive the benefits they have earned."

One innovation is using a private contractor to assist VA in collecting
health-care records.  When private medical records support a Veteran's
application for benefits, a contractor will quickly retrieve the records
from the health-care provider, scan them into a digital format and send
the material to VA through a secure transmission.

This pilot project hopes to validate initial estimates that a
specialized contract can yield records required to process Veterans'
disability compensation claims in seven to 10 days instead of VA's
average 40 days.  In addition, the additional contract frees VA staff to
focus on core duties to process claims more quickly.

Exploring economical contract support for time savings is one of more
than three dozen initiatives supporting VA's claims transformation plan,
which aims to ensure that by 2015, Veterans' claims are decided within
125 days.

VA officials emphasize that in all cases Veterans must sign documents
approving the release of their medical records to the department from
private health-care providers.

The test is expected to involve about 60,000 records requests among
regional benefits offices in Phoenix; New York City; St. Louis;
Portland, Ore.; Chicago; Anchorage, Alaska; Indianapolis, and Jackson,
Miss.  At the conclusion of the test, VA officials will decide whether
to cancel, modify or expand any changes in procedures nationwide.