DIG IT AWARD FINALIST: MOBILE
From technically available to truly useful
- By Stephanie Kanowitz
- Oct 13, 2017
Following a public outcry over how long veterans often wait to receive medical care, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been driving toward greater transparency — a goal the Access to Care tool meets.
“It was not [a question of] ‘how can this help the VA?’” said Jack Bates, director of VA’s Business Intelligence Service Line. “It was ‘how can this help the veterans?’”
The tool lets veterans and their families view the wait times at VA facilities, compare care ratings and review national data on access. It pulls data from 130 components of VA’s VistA electronic health records system into a data mart built for the project.
“We in turn feed that data to a mirror system in Microsoft Azure Government, which is where the application resides and accesses the data in the data mart,” Bates said. The tool also uses Bing Maps to show facilities’ locations.
The data had long been available publicly but mainly in a massive, infrequently updated PDF file that users had to download and search. Now, users can enter ZIP codes or addresses, set a search radius, choose an appointment and clinic type, and sort results by distance, facility name or wait time. The results pop up on a map alongside facility details.
Soon, users will also be able to search for providers based on specialty and gender.
“It’s giving veterans access to the same data that we have on the same frequency that we get it,” Bates said.
Shereef Elnahal, VA’s assistant deputy undersecretary for health for quality, safety and value, credits a strong partnership between the IT and business teams for the tool’s success.
“We were able to bring this product online within just a month,” Elnahal said. “This is a case study for how seamlessly you can translate business requirements into an IT product within government.”
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.