A failure to scan outsourced medical records has caused an approximate three- to five-month backlog at the Memphis Veteran Administration Medical Center, The Daily Caller has learned.
TheDC was exclusively given a photo snapped of the medical records room on June 12, 2014. In the photo, hundreds of unprocessed medical records sit idly, causing delays of up to five months.
According to a whistle-blower who wished to remain anonymous because they are still employed by the Memphis VA Medical Center, the medical records room is for entering test results and other medical data that occurs after a patient is outsourced for medical tests or procedures.
A recent audit by the VA flagged the Memphis VA Medical Center after it found the facility had an average wait time for the initial appointment of fifty days.
The medical records shown in the photo are generated when the VA refers a patient to another hospital for further medical procedures. Medical tests like colonoscopies, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and X-rays, are among the tests that can be performed by an outside hospital, said the whistle-blower.
The outside hospital then sends their results back to the Memphis VA Medical Center, and those results are supposed to be scanned into the VA system.
Instead of being scanned in, the results are piling up, said the whistle-blower, causing further delays beyond the initial wait times.
“If you’re waiting for the results of a colonoscopy, [the added wait time is] the difference between life and death,” the whistle-blower told TheDC.
According to this whistle-blower, about an hour after TheDC sent VA communications officer Sandra Glover an email listing these charges, the medical records were moved from the medical records room and into the office of Rebecca England, the chief of Medical Records. Glover is a communications officer for the Veteran Integrated Services Network 9, which includes the Memphis VA Medical Center.
The Memphis VA Medical Center is now scrambling, asking dozens to work over-time in order to clear up the back log, and the VA police are investigating the source of the leak to TheDC, the whistle-blower noted.
TheDC sent a follow-up email to to Ms. Glover and she confirmed much of this story:
The Memphis VA Medical Center cares deeply for every veteran we are privileged to serve. Our goal is to provide the best quality care in a safe environment, as quickly and effectively as we can. After receiving the photograph you sent, we checked with the Memphis VA Medical Center to determine its validity and, if warranted, what actions could be taken to process those medical records as quickly as possible.
It was determined that the record — forwarded from the facility’s outpatient clinics — should have been processed, and subsequently the facility took the appropriate actions to scan them in to the electronic patient record. Memphis VA Medical Center hired a new supervisor two months ago in the patient records area and the consult process has been redesigned to better monitor timeliness. We continue to take action to strengthen oversight mechanisms to prevent delays.
While we regret that the files weren’t processed in a more timely fashion, this is an administrative function that did not impact patient outcomes. Critical clinical information was previously communicated with treating clinicians. In the end, these files have been addressed – which is what we want for the sake of all our patients. Thank you for your concern for our nation’s veterans and for bringing this to our attention.
TheDC spoke with a veteran who was likely affected by this backlog. Jesse Blakely served in the military in the early 1970s.
In November 2013, he walked into the Memphis VA Medical Center complaining of chest pains. After waiting several hours in the emergency room with no help, Blakely left and was treated at nearby Methodist Hospital.
Blakely said Methodist Hospital ran several tests as part of his treatment, but his follow-up appointment at the Memphis VA Medical Center didn’t occur until the beginning of June — more than six months later.
Blakely told TheDC that to add insult to injury, even though he was initially assured by the VA that his medical bills would be covered, he’s since been charged for his trip to the Methodist Hospital emergency room.
Earlier in June, TheDC broke exclusively that in 2010, the same Memphis VA Medical Center approved over $1 million in bonuses while closing a therapy pool just a few months later citing a lack of funds. Bill O’Reilly used that report as the basis of his “Is it Legal” segment the next day.
A staffer at the House Veteran Affairs Committee told TheDC the committee was unaware of any other VA hospitals where outsourced medical tests were causing back logs.