Thousands of VA medical tests improperly canceled or delayed, audit finds

Gabrielle Masson - Print  | 

Veterans Affairs employees improperly canceled an estimated 106,000 radiology and nuclear medicine tests and delayed about 115,000 tests from September to December 2017, according to a wide-ranging audit by the VA's inspector general cited by USA Today. 

The audit, released Dec. 11, reviewed cancellations and backlogs from September through December 2017 at nine VA facilities across the U.S. Auditors also contacted staff from about 40 VA centers. 

Six things to know: 

1. Issues were caused by backlogs and breakdowns at every level of management, auditors said. Delays were attributed to short-staffing at VA facilities, equipment shortages and poor oversight.

2. Facility managers often failed to ensure providers reviewed overdue orders before they were canceled, auditors found. Radiology supervisors didn't have the capability "to ensure canceled … requests received the appropriate clinical review," auditors wrote. 

3. From October to December 2017, about 1 in 6 routine tests took an average of 43 days to complete, compared to a one-month expectation. One in 4 urgent exams took an average of 34 days, when they should be completed within two weeks.

4. Auditors said the lapses put veterans at risk, but they did not find veterans were harmed.

5. "Our office has expended considerable resources and time to develop solutions to the concerns raised," the national VA radiology office said in a written response to the audit, cited by USA Today. 

6. The VA should improve oversight of diagnostic test orders and exams, auditors said, as well as establish internal audits to catch problems and ensure veterans get the tests they need. VA officials pledged to have solutions implemented by July.

Last year, a USA Today investigation revealed more than 250,000 radiology orders at VA hospitals nationwide had been canceled since 2016. 

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