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FCW : May 30, 2013
May 30, 2013 FCW.COM 17 ever do that, but we might do it in the router. Sorting out which can or can t and upgrading old tech will take years." Other problems persist, too. Help- desk times remain poor outside Wash- ington, D.C., and VA sources said a rift has emerged between IT and other parts of the department. "The natives are more than restless about the abysmal service we get out- side the Beltway, and help-desk wait times have grossly increased. IT has never been less connected to the VA s mission," the source said, adding that it does not bode well for the success of many of the agency s major IT-intensive priorities. Bob Woods, a former IT executive at VA and now founder and president of Topside Consulting Group, said IT of ces open themselves up to criticism when they lose sight of the overall agency mission. "IT shops have to be connected to the mission, period, and when a mis- sion seems to be going the other way, you re going to get criticism for it," Woods said. "You re going to get over- sight and critical review and negative things said. That s not to say you re not doing your job, but in the long run, you can t have processing times [for claims] go the wrong way and mission things not go the right way." Another former senior IT leader at VA said the agency s technical prob- lems were exacerbated when IT staff moved from the Veterans Health Administration to its own department led by a CIO with budget authority. That centralization, which took place from 2004 to 2006, was great for giving the CIO authority over major IT ini- tiatives, but it moved health care pro- fessionals and clinicians away from IT decision-making processes and added several layers of bureaucracy to those decisions, the source said. Clinicians in top leadership positions at VA are now a rarity, and IT decisions that should involve health care profes- sionals often do not, the source said. "VA faces a health care delivery problem," the source said. "Technology is an enabler, but it s people, work ow and a complex adaptive system that involves people, not just technology, that are the keys to health care deliv- ery. VA has been decimated by bureau- cracy, and that s just one consequence of the reorganization." VA might have simply bitten off more than it could chew, admitted one former OIT employee. The agency s strategic plan lists 16 priority initia- tives, each of which is a major under- taking. They include ending homeless- ness among veterans, automating GI Bill bene ts, transforming health care through health informatics and improv- ing veterans mental health. "Any CEO will tell you that if every- thing is a priority, nothing is a priority," the source said. Trouble at the top At a time when strong IT leadership is desperately needed at VA, OIT has seen
May 15, 2013
June 15, 2013