VA’s Veterans Experience Office, in partnership with the Veterans Health Administration has taken best practices from across VA and private sector health care to enhance the Veteran patient experience. Patient Experience Week (April 22-26, 2019) is an opportunity to highlight efforts to improve the interactions between Veterans, their families and the Veterans Health Administration.
“If our Veterans receive optimal care and should have to return to a hospital, we hope that they would choose VA. That’s what a positive patient experience means to me,” said Donna House, an associate chief nurse at the Marion, Illinois VA Medical Center.
Bill Britt and his wife during an inpatient stay at the Marion VA Medical Center.
Jeff Anderson served five years in the Army and three years in the National Guard. He suffered a stroke a few years ago and was hospitalized at a VA facility in April. Anderson described his recent patient experience as “top notch.” After his stroke he decided to relocate closer to his favorite VA facility.
“The nursing staff built a great rapport and dealt with my irritation, the other clinicians talked to me about all aspects of my care, spending lots of time with me before I was going to discharge and go home,” he said. “I don’t like hospitals or want to be in one, but I wouldn’t mind coming back to VA.”
Patient Experience can mean different things to each Veteran and their family, the big picture is that care and service is delivered in a way that is exceptional and consistent. Tools developed to establish a positive patient experience include:
- WECARE Rounding: Medical Center Leaders and Administrators make “rounds,” speaking directly with staff and visitors about the care and services they received
- Standard Phone Greeting: Creates a uniform way to greet callers, letting them know in a clear, friendly way who they have reached
- Red Coat Ambassadors: These ambassadors welcome Veterans and their families at medical center entrances with a friendly greeting and direct them to their destination
- Own the Moment: This customer experience workshop encourages VA staff to connect with, understand, and help guide Veterans through the moments that matter on their VA journey
- Green Glove Initiative: A program that encourages staff to help ensure their facility is welcoming, clean and safe
Navy Veteran Larry Clore repaired submarines during the Vietnam war and now spends his days serving Veterans in Harrisburg, Illinois as a Red Coat Ambassador.
Currently, 73 percent of Veterans surveyed said they trust VA overall, with 87.8% of Veterans saying they trust VA outpatient healthcare (over the past 90 days) to take care of them.
Making each moment that matters a better experience for Veterans is not something new for VA, although there is a higher focus on customer service since Secretary Robert Wilkie took leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Our first priority is customer service. That’s the prime directive. When Veterans come to VA, it is not up to them to get us to say yes. It’s up to us to get Veterans to yes. That’s customer service,” stated Wilkie.
Earlier this year, VA held it’s first ever Patient Experience Symposium, where Veterans and health care leaders gathered to share and discuss what works best in their facilities to deliver a positive patient experience.
“When a patient chooses to come see you, you earn the next visit by whether or not you instill trust,” said Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, during the conference. “That trust is very fragile and can be eroded easily by every experience Veterans have, even if you don’t have anything to do with it.”