VA assembled more than 450 VA health care decision-makers and clinicians, including all VA medical center directors in Washington D.C. last week for one purpose – improving the Patient Experience at VA. The 2019 VA Patient Experience Symposium allowed VA employees to share best practices and align in support of Secretary Wilkie’s prime directive, customer service.
Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) set the tone for the conference stating, “When a patient chooses to come see you, you earn the next visit by whether or not you instill trust. 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.”
The symposium may have re-emphasized VA’s commitment to customer service, but it didn’t start here. Over the past 18 months, the Veterans Experience Office has supported each VA Medical Center in some way, all VA Hospitals have implemented Red Coat Ambassadors, and more than 60,000 VHA employees have completed the Own the Moment Customer Experience Workshop. This in addition to the thousands of dedicated VHA employees who have challenged every process to ensure the Veteran was at the center, piloting and creating new projects – all to see what makes life easiest for their Veteran patients.
VA sites of care are more than just a brick and mortar building to stop by for a health care appointment. They are communities, supported by Veterans, their families, caregivers, survivors, veteran service organizations, volunteers and employees.
There are a lot of factors that determine a positive patient experience, it could be a warm greeting at the front desk, a Red Coat volunteer walking Veterans to an appointment, clear signage or parking access. Putting the Veteran and their family at the center of all VA data, technology, tools, and engagement strategies will guide culture change and improve sustainment of programs within VA.
The results of a recent VA customer experience feedback survey showed an average 2.4 percent increase in Veteran trust of VA hospitals during fiscal year (FY) 2018.
Beginning in fall 2017 through September 2018, VA surveyed 1,660,563 Veterans regarding their trust of VA health care outpatient services and found that the “trust scores” of 128 out of 139 VA medical centers increased by an average of 2.4 percent by the end of Fiscal Year 2018.
“Listening to our Veteran patients plays an important role in providing world class customer service,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA is not only listening to our
Veterans, but we are taking action on their concerns as well as their recommendations to improve VA health care.”
An additional quarterly VA-wide survey, asking Veterans if they “trust VA to fulfill our country’s commitment to Veterans,” scored as 55 percent saying yes, they trust VA in 2016 with an increase to 73 percent saying they trust the VA at the end of 2018.
Medal of Honor recipient and former VA employee, Herschel “Woody” Williams told the group, “None of us could exist in this world alone, we must have service to others to exist, to survive.” Williams began working for the Huntington VA in West Virginia in 1946 and it is now named after him.
While patient experience is very complex and fragile, it must be the centerpiece of ALL we do.
Watch the three-day VA Patient Experience Symposium replays on VA YouTube.