Aug 12 2014
With all the attention given VA Scheduling nowadays, I thought I’d relate some of my experiences with a commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) scheduling program that I use as a Kaiser Permanente member. Kaiser has a multi-billion dollar agreement with EPIC systems, who provide their MyChart patient portal system.
Bottom Line: Even COTS software does not necessarily lead to happy patients. The Kaiser scheduling system is seriously messed up. Figuring out when to call the central 800 number, the department, or submit an online request is quite a frustrating challenge. And trying to book an online appointment for optometry, for example, is nearly impossible.
Here is what it looks like to do an online optometry appointment request.
First you have to choose a facility:
So far, so good. I chose the Carlsbad offices. The fun begins on the next screen, where I have to choose specific providers. I can’t ask for “any” provider, nor can I just ask for the next available appointment. I have to choose 1-3 providers specifically, and I have to choose a specific date range:
After about a dozen attempts to figure out providers and dates, I keep getting the same message:
No other feedback, just try again. When I go back, I don’t see the providers or dates I tried, just blank fields to try again. There are no hints, no “next available appointment” slots, no Help tab, customer support access, or ability to browse. Just a blank screen to try again.
So, I had to call their 800 number to wade through the key presses to select my language, listen to a “this call may be recorded” message (multiple times), then select my way though the appointment menu. Depending on the particular clinic, I might get routed to another 800 number to call. Some appointments I can make directly with my provider, others through the department, others through the central service.
Of course, the problems with the VA scheduling system are far more serious than what I describe here. But this also shows that, even with billions of dollars of software expenses and Commercial Off The Shelf products, things can be far from perfect (or even usable).
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