The Phoenix VA Medical Center is implementing programs, efforts and initiatives to improve the overall Veteran and guest experience.
One of the ways the Phoenix VA is working to make this positive change is by bringing on the Veteran Experience Office’s Patient Experience team whose sole focus is to improve the experience for patients at VA medical facilities across the country. Medical center leaders have provided tools and training that enable staff to go above and beyond to meet Veteran and caregiver needs.
- Red Coat Ambassador program, which places red coat or vest-wearing participants, who in many cases are volunteers, at the entrances of medical centers to kindly greet and direct visitors. This initiative reduces any possible visitor anxiety by providing a personal connection at the very beginning of their visit and by assisting in facility navigation.
- Another key initiative Phoenix has implemented is enhancements to facility signs and directions, also called Way Finding. This initiative reassess and improves what can sometimes be unclear facility signage to ensure guests get to where they need to be quickly and without confusion.
- Phoenix has also stepped up its leadership engagement efforts. Veteran feedback, supported by research, shows that leaders who are engaged and visible, earn more trust. Phoenix has responded to this feedback with what’s known as Walking the Post or WECARE Leadership Rounding, where hospital administrators and leaders make regular rounds to interact with and listen to Veterans, guests and VAMC staff.
- A customer experience workshop called Own the Moment. This effort encourages VA staff to connect with, understand and help guide Veterans through the moments that truly matter on their journey with VA. This initiative provides basic guidelines and helpful tips on Veteran interaction, connection and guidance so that staff can ensure that VA provides the best quality of care for Veterans.
- A “one stop shop” Customer Care Center where Veterans can go to have all their needs met – anything from billing to patient advocacy – in the comfort of a lounge-style atmosphere with complimentary beverages. Phoenix is an urban facility which means their physical growth is limited by their real estate restrictions. A facility with space issues has to be innovative in how to meet the needs of a growing number of patients and visitors and the Customer Care Center has done just that.
Elijah Ditter, a Veterans Experience advocate at Phoenix VA, spoke of the efforts added to improve the patient experience as “a great way to start a larger cultural change effort.”
While these initiatives and events have had a positive impact, sustainment is an important part of any lasting change effort. To address this, Phoenix established working groups that focus on the implementation and ongoing success of individual patient and Veteran experience initiatives.
Each of these work groups report to a Veteran-centered care committee that oversees these efforts. This structure has enabled Phoenix to maintain its positive trajectory and keep staff and Veterans engaged and coming back.
The Phoenix VA Medical Center has the same challenges as many other VA medical centers including staffing shortages, limited funding and real estate limitations. Despite their current and past issues, the positive results at the Phoenix VA Medical center illustrate how a concerted and coordinated effort can make a difference in the experience of Veterans and caregivers.
*Original blog submitted by the VA Patient Experience team.