On the heels of claims last week that the Palo Alto VA hospital maintains better-than-average wait times and care, an internal audit found issues related to scheduling practices at one of its inpatient facilities in Livermore.
Livermore is one of 81 sites nationwide whose practices the federal Department of Veterans Affairs determined needs further review after the audit, which was conducted through site visits May 12 through June 3.
One employee "raised concern" at the Livermore hospital, spokesman Michael Hill-Jackson said.
"We can only assume (because it was flagged) that it had to do with an inconsistent way of scheduling, but we are not sure what was actually said as these are being kept confidential," Hill-Jackson wrote in an email. "We have yet to get any further details on the situation or if it will actually warrant another site review. The next step is entirely up to the Office of Inspector General."
The audit focused on the front-line staff's understanding of proper scheduling processes as well as training, supervision and management practices and policies. Data was collected through in-person interviews and confidential questionnaires. A main question posed was: "What are the main barriers and challenges staff members face in offering veterans timely access to care? Do they feel personally capable of delivering high-quality service?"
A report lists both inadequate training of schedulers and inflexibility of a scheduling software system as "significant inhibitors" to keeping patients' wait times within the national metric of 14 days.
Hill-Jackson said that VA Palo Alto Health Care System leadership is reaching out to "all schedulers and supervisors to gain feedback from them on what issues they might be facing while scheduling patients. We are using this information to improve our training and make sure all clerks have a standardized way of scheduling patients to ensure consistency throughout the health care system."
Auditors visited the Palo Alto hospital on May 13 and Livermore on May 14, according to the report. Livermore was the only VA Palo Alto Health Care System facility found to require further review. The system consists of three inpatient facilities (Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Livermore) and seven outpatient clinics in San Jose, Fremont, Capitola, Monterey, Stockton, Modesto and Sonora.
VAPAHCS Director Lisa Freeman said in a statement Tuesday that the system is developing new scheduling training that will be implemented at all of its sites "in order to ensure that there is no confusion about our scheduling practices."
She also said that the organization has scheduled appointments for all patients on the system's New Enrollee Appointment Request (NEAR) list, which represents patients from within and outside the system's 10-county coverage area who have indicated they would like an appointment at a VAPAHCS site.
View the audit finding's report here.