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Official: Technology could help Veterans Affairs reduce wait times

Gail Graham of the Department of Veterans Affairs, speaking Monday at the College of St. Scholastica, said the key to empowering patients and improving accessibility could be technology. Graham is in charge of the VA’s electronic health records. (Steve Kuchera /

With the Department of Veterans Affairs still under scrutiny for reports of falsified records, and tens of thousands of veterans waiting for health care, one VA official said the key to empowering patients and improving accessibility could be technology.

While visiting the College of St. Scholastica to deliver a speech to students on Monday, Gail Graham, VA deputy undersecretary for health for informatics and analytics, said using technology to treat patients and share patient information among providers could help reduce the wait times that plague the agency. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said in a statement that the results of the VA’s audit — more than 100,000 veterans are on wait lists to receive care — “raise some serious issues.”

“Since I got to the Senate, I’ve been working on making sure our veterans get the care they need on a timely basis,” Franken said. “I’m going to continue doing everything I can to make sure veterans can get the care they’ve earned.”

The VA’s problems stem from reports that workers falsified records to show that more patients were being seen and treated than actually were. Some patients have had to wait months for care, and some are still waiting.

Graham, who works with health care data for all of the VA’s patients, declined to comment on details of the scandal, but said her office is working to make the system more efficient.

She said the VA wants to make patient information more accessible for patients and providers, so that patients have more options when considering where and when to be treated.

“Really empowering patients to have access to their information has always been part of our plan at the VA,” Graham said.

She also said the VA could expand its use of technology to treat patients remotely. An example of that is already being practiced by the VA in its treatment of mental health patients who receive counseling via videoconference.

When necessary, Graham said, the VA is also working to connect patients with private providers while the agency sorts through the fallout from the ongoing scandal.

“If, in some instances, the timeframe in which the VA can get them an appointment doesn’t meet their needs, and they’re qualified for non-VA care, then that will be made available to them,” Graham said. “But every attempt is made to see the veteran within the VA system.”