The Importance of Listening to Veteran Patients



In her new role, Dr. Carolyn Clancy has been communicating her experiences and observations as VA’s Interim Under Secretary for Health in weekly internal messages. Her memos underline one of the main goals we have at VA Careers, which is to focus on the important work VA does to advance health care in the U.S., and how vital our employees are to that mission. Read her latest message below:

Earlier this month, I had the honor of attending the historic ceremony at which President Obama signed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act into law. This law will give us the additional funding and support we need to provide timely, high-quality health care to Veterans. I invited two headquarters employees who are also Veterans to accompany me to the signing ceremony. During the car ride down from Washington, D.C., to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where the ceremony took place, I had the chance to talk with and get to know my guests. The experience both inspired me and reminded me how important it is to listen to the Veterans we serve.

Listening to patients is a relatively new concept in health care. Many health care systems have established patient and family advisory councils as an effective mechanism for receiving and responding to input from the customers they serve.

In some ways, our health care system is ahead of the curve on listening to patients because of our strong partnerships with the nation’s Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs). Their contributions to the VA reform discussions that have taken place on Capitol Hill and across the nation in recent months have been invaluable in shaping the way forward. Many of the volunteers at our facilities—our priceless assets—are active members of VSOs and a helpful source of feedback on how we are doing, if we ask and are willing to listen.

Listening to Veterans will be essential as we work to transform VA into their health care provider of choice. And if we really want to improve our system and regain the trust of Veterans, we not only need to listen to their concerns, thoughts and ideas, we need to actively involve them in implementing change. The town hall meetings our facilities will be hosting across the country over the next few weeks will give us a formal opportunity to hear directly and learn from the Veterans we serve. The importance of listening to Veterans, whether we do that through public, group forums such as these town hall meetings, or through the many private, day-to-day encounters with our patients, cannot be overstated. This is not the time to get complacent and assume we know what Veterans want and need. The only way we can truly know what Veterans want and need is to ask them—and listen.

 

CAROLYN M. CLANCY, MD

clancymdCarolyn Clancy, M.D., was named Interim Under Secretary for Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs, on July 2, 2014. As Interim Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Clancy oversees the health care needs of millions of Veterans enrolled in VHA, the United States’ largest integrated health care system, with more than 1700 sites, including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and Readjustment Counseling Centers. Dr. Clancy, a general internist and health services researcher, is a graduate of Boston College and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

 

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VA Careers