Few VA facilities have real-time asset tracking technology despite big national contract

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Despite signing a massive national contract to implement real-time location technology in 2012, most Veterans Affairs facilities across the nation are still not using real-time asset tracking, according to a national VA spokesperson.

Our Community Watchdog investigation earlier this week identified almost 1,300 missing items from Mountain Home VA Medical Center, including medical devices and other equipment that cost taxpayers $1.7 million to buy in the first place.

Federal records show just 16 of the country’s more than 160 VA medical facilities currently have real-time asset tracking and Mountain Home is not one of them.

“Every facility has an opportunity for improvement,” Director Dean Borsos said. “We have some challenges that we need to work through and we have other opportunities for improvement that we need to work through and we appreciate you pointing that out to us and we’ll take a close look at that and we’ll work on that and see if we can make that even better.”

Associate Medical Center Director Dan Snyder told us the facility’s already extended its network in preparation for real-time location services and is using some of its applications, but continues to wait for the go-ahead to start moving forward with the asset tracking technology.

“Eventually that will be on all of our equipment and we’ll be able to tell where it is all the time, not just an annual inventory, but we’ll be able to locate it any time,” Snyder said. “I don’t have word on the next step.”

Mountain Home isn’t alone in its desire to have better inventory controls. The VA awarded a $543 million contract in 2012 with a goal of bringing asset tracking to 47 other VA facilities, according to a VA spokesperson. Two stop work orders later, VA spokesperson Terrence Hayes said that technology is still not in use at those locations. However, he said the sterile processing workflow and cath lab capabilities, which are part of the RTLS national contract, are in use at some facilities.

“In a technology project of the scope and magnitude of RTLS, it is common for those involved to periodically reassess the program and realign the approach in order to achieve the desired outcome,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement. “The overall health of RTLS has improved as a result of the realignment between VA and the contractor. Specifically, VA and the contractor conducted a joint technical review of the program…Success is being realized and VA is able to positively impact patient care for our Veterans. We have deployed more than one dozen installs under this phased approach.”

Rep. Phil Roe (R), TN-District 1, said new V.A. Secretary David Shulkin is aware of the delays and problems.

“(You) are disappointed, but I wasn’t surprised and I think that Dr. Shulkin will get it online,” Rep. Roe said of the lagging contract. “I don’t think it’s a matter of deliberately not doing it, I think it’s just having someone in charge to be sure that’s implemented and then it’s our responsibility in Congress to oversee these.”

The congressman chairs the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He said that committee recently hired a new investigator to strictly focus on IT projects. He knows real-time tracking technology is needed, particularly at his home VA.

“I think you’ll see that change,” he said when asked about the significant number of the missing items at Mountain Home.

The 47 VA’s set to receive asset tracking under the national contract are expected to have their systems up and running within the next year. However, the timeline for the other VAs, including Mountain Home, which are not currently under the national contract, is not as clear.

“16 facilities have Asset Tracking, but they were not purchased under the national contract that we are in the process of deploying,” Hayes said. “The immediate objective is [the] implementation of RTLS at facilities currently under the national contract. There is currently no timeline for deploying RTLS to facilities not under the national contract. While there is [a] desire to deploy RTLS technology at many facilities, the benefits must be assessed on balance with other capital investment priorities and available funding.”

None of the VA facilities in Tennessee currently use real-time asset tracking, according to federal records.

Below is a list of the top 25 most expensive items missing from VA hospitals across our region (listed by manufacturer’s equipment, depreciated value –  facility):

  1. Electrocardiograph(5), 69,066.90  – Memphis
  2. HP Laptop/C-Leg Pylon/Tracer CAD/Knee Kit/, $59,380.48 – Tennessee Valley
  3. Eus-curvilinear array, $53,500.00 – Lexington
  4. Ultrsnic untdiagn human, transducter, 45,000.00 – Memphis
  5. Compression unit inter (47), $36,340.00 – Lexington
  6. Therapy unit wound vac, – $28,560.00 – Memphis
  7. Compurt, various, – $24,265.63  – Memphis
  8. Telehealth Cameras & Monitors, – $23,375.23 – Tennessee Valley
  9. Cardio….resusication equip(2),  truck hand pharm (6), $20,319.04 – Memphis
  10. Computer equipment, various , $16,695.74 – Memphis
  11. Anal assembly ultramicro, $12,000.00 – Mountain Home
  12. Bed (2), $11,457.14 – Lexington
  13. Stretcher, $11,096.30 – Lexington
  14. Respir… cardio resusication equip(2),  cart-table, surgical (4), $9,079.71 – Memphis
  15. Cart-table surgical (8), $8,524.32 – Memphis
  16. Computers & Monitors, $8,394.50 – Tennessee Valley
  17. Illumination system with light source, $8,348.20 – Mountain Home
  18. Server (2), $8,251.20 – Lexington
  19. Video glidescope, $8,041.00 – Mountain Home
  20. Chair transfer pt, elite(4), $7,979.96 – Memphis
  21. Printer laserjet, $7,700.00 – Mountain Home
  22. Printer laserjet, $7,700.00 – Mountain Home
  23. Nec server, $7,014.53 – Tennessee Valley
  24. Tele tx, $6,443.00 – Lexington
  25. Mattress bariatric, $6,144.92 – Mountain Home

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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