VA hospital director admits tracking system flawed

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The director of the Indianapolis VA hospital said Monday that technology aimed at tracking medical devices was flawed.

“Some of the techniques that we piloted here which represent state-of-the-art in location technology did not work out as well as what we would’ve wanted,” said Dr. J. Brian Hancock, medical director at the VA Roudebush Medical Center.

Hancock denies that the system designed to track medical equipment in real time is a failure, but said improvements could be made.

His statements Monday came nearly a month after an I-Team 8 investigation found the hospital lost track of $1 million worth of medical equipment that records show was either lost, stolen or misplaced.

What’s more — the problems with inventory and the inability to track down the whereabouts of certain items persisted even after the VA inked a $543 million contract in 2013 to install real-time location systems (RTLS).

Hancock said in the initial pilot stages of implementation, the Indianapolis VA technicians discovered it wasn’t working properly.

“This does not mean that they were lost; in the pilot stage, we found that we went into the areas and inspected the system to tell us that something was in the room. We found out it didn’t work. That was one of the faults in our pilot study, which then helped to guide us as to which we would adopt,” said Hancock.

Sources close to the technology within the VA also confirmed to I-Team 8 that unsuspecting items — such as light bulbs — could interfere with the systems and software designed to help track the medical equipment’s location in real time.

Some of the missing items listed on inventory records included a $28,000 surgical drill or $22,000 worth of patient lifts.

Hancock’s statements came on the same day as Sen. Joe Donnelly’s tour of the Indianapolis VA.

Donnelly and Sen. Todd Young had already expressed concern about the findings of the I-Team 8 investigation, leading the two to pen a letter to VA Secretary Shulkin in late May expressing their concern about inventory problems.

Donnelly said Monday that “We ought to be looking at best practices, what is the Mayo Clinic doing? What is the Cleveland Clinic doing to keep track of its equipment,” Sen. Donnelly said.

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