The best information we receive on how well VA serves Veterans comes from Veterans themselves. Shortly after a visit to a hospital or clinic, Veterans may receive a survey that asks them about their visit.
The Survey of Healthcare Experience of Patients (SHEP) provides information to facility managers about the Veteran experience. Feedback includes ease and speed of making an appointment, if their provider spent enough time with them and if they discussed their medications.
Survey creators base SHEP surveys on Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Surveys. They focus on four health care areas: inpatient care, primary care, specialty care and care in the community. The survey information and other data, such as wait times, staffing data, direct observation or talking to patients, help to generate a robust picture of facility health and areas for improvement.
Impacts Veteran trust in quality of care
Experience tells us that these four areas are some of the key drivers that impact Veteran trust in the quality of care. The VA Office of Quality and Patient Safety, Analytics and Performance Integration Division, Office of Performance Measurement, conducts SHEP surveys.
“We use key driver analysis to focus on the questions that have a high impact on the overall rating. This analysis helps identify areas for improvement that negatively impact Veteran satisfaction as well as those areas performing well,” said James Flaherty, administrative officer for Surveys, Office of Performance Measurement, VHA Office of Analytics and Performance Integration.”By maintaining what is good and focusing improvement measures on problem areas, we expect ratings to improve over time. The quarterly reports provide gains or losses based on the previous reporting period.”
Survey based on type of care they receive
The staff selects Veterans based on the care they receive and the last time they completed a survey. The survey categories are:
- Inpatient: For Veterans who are admitted for medical attention or surgery and discharged to home.
- Primary/Specialty/Community Care: Veteran had a primary, specialty or community care visit in a target month and cannot have been sampled and responded within the last 12 months.
“We realize that while the Veteran’s voice is important, their time is important as well,” Flaherty said. “If a Veteran responds to one of our surveys, they will not receive another one for at least a year.”
VA averages about a 35% response rate. This indicates many Veterans invest in their own health care and appreciate having a voice in improving it. The number of patients surveyed varies based on the size of the facility and the type of care sought.
Confident we are taking the right actions
Flaherty says it’s important for Veterans to respond. “If we don’t know how we’re doing, we don’t know where to focus our efforts to improve care. The more people we hear from, the more reliable our information is and the more confident we are that we are looking in the right places and taking the right actions.”
VISN 6 Veteran Experience Officer Sharon Bostic says SHEP surveys impact the Veteran experience and improve clinical health outcomes in profound ways. “Sharing this data with our staff shows them the powerful impact they have on Veteran trust and quality of health care. It also drives employee engagement and makes them the owners of care and experience. Being involved in the change is a powerful motivator for both staff and patients.”
Bostic believes the SHEP surveys are an important component of VA becoming a trusted care provider. “Focusing on those moments that matter increases a Veterans understanding and ability to manage their health post-discharge. Good patient experience is good medicine. By giving them a good patient experience and always looking to improve it, we are giving them the skills and knowledge needed to stay healthy.”
Donna Stratford is the director of communications for the VHA Office of Quality and Patient Safety. She is an Air Force Veteran.