Thomas Crisp Contributing Columnist
July 10, 2014
On June 19 the Department of Veterans Affairs posted the second in a series of bi-monthly data updates showing progress on its efforts to accelerate access to quality health care for veterans who have been waiting for appointments.
Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D. Gibson announced that VA has now contacted approximately 70,000 veterans across the country to get them off of wait lists and into clinics for medical appointments.
Gibson also announced the release of the latest updated, facility-level patient access data, which demonstrates that the number of appointments has increased by almost 200,000 from May 15 to June 1.
“In many communities across the country, veterans wait too long for the high quality care they’ve earned and deserve,” said Gibson. “As of today, we’ve reached out to 70,000 veterans to get them off wait lists and into clinics, but there is still much more work to be done. As we continue to address systemic challenges in accessing care, these regular data updates will enhance transparency and provide the most immediate information to veterans and the public on veterans’ access to quality health care. Trust is the foundation for everything we do. VA must be an organization built on transparency and accountability, and we will do everything we can to earn that trust one veteran at a time.”
Last week, VA announced the following actions in response to the nationwide Access Audit findings and data:
• Establishing New Patient Satisfaction Measurement Program: Gibson has directed VHA to immediately begin developing a new patient satisfaction measurement program to provide real-time, robust, location-by-location information on patient satisfaction, to include satisfaction data of those veterans attempting to access VA healthcare for the first time. This program will be developed with input from Veterans Service Organizations, outside healthcare organizations, and other entities. This will ensure VA collects an additional set of data – directly from the veteran’s perspective – to understand how VA is doing throughout the system.
• Holding Senior Leaders Accountable: Where audited sites identify concerns within the parent facility or its affiliated clinics, VA will trigger administrative procedures to ascertain the appropriate follow-on personnel actions for specific individuals.
• Ordering an Immediate VHA Central Office and VISN Office Hiring Freeze: Gibson has ordered an immediate hiring freeze at the Veterans Health Administration central office in Washington, D.C., and the 21 VHA Veterans Integrated Service Network regional offices, except for critical positions to be approved by the Secretary on a case-by-case basis.
This action will begin to remove bureaucratic obstacles and establish responsive, forward leaning leadership. Removing 14-Day Scheduling Goal VA is eliminating the 14-day scheduling goal from employee performance plans. This action will eliminate incentives to engage in inappropriate scheduling practices or behaviors.
• Increasing Transparency by Posting Data Twice-Monthly: At the direction of the Acting Secretary, VHA will post regular updates to the access data released today at the middle and end of each month at www.va.gov/health. Twice-monthly data updates will enhance transparency and provide the most immediate information to veterans and the public on Veterans access to quality healthcare.
• Initiating an Independent, External Audit of Scheduling Practices: Gibson has also directed that an independent, external audit of system-wide VHA scheduling practices be performed.
• Utilizing High Performing Facilities to Help Those That Need Improvement: VA will formalize a process in which high performing facilities provide direct assistance and share best practices with facilities that require improvement on particular medical center quality and efficiency, also known as SAIL, performance measures.
• Suspending Performance Awards: VA has suspended all VHA senior executive performance awards for FY2014.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced the launch of its airborne hazards and burn pit registry at veteran.mobilehealth.va.gov/AHBurnPitRegistry/#page/home. OEF/OIF/OND or 1990-1991 Gulf War Veterans and Servicemembers can use the registry questionnaire to report exposures to airborne hazards (such as smoke from burn pits, oil-well fires, or pollution during deployment), as well as other exposures and health concerns. Everyone is encouraged to participate, and you need not be enrolled in VA’s health care system to do so.
The registry is intended to be an epidemiological research tool with examinations helping to enhance VA’s understanding of any identified long-term adverse health effects of exposure to burn pits and other airborne hazards during deployment —-ultimately leading to better health care.
Veterans should sign-up now for a Department of Defense Self-Service Logon (DS-Logon) in preparation for the launch of the registry. More information about the registry and the DS-Logon can be found at veteran.mobilehealth.va.gov/AHBurnPitRegistry/#page/home.