Women make up about ten percent of the Veteran population in the United States and are one of the fastest growing groups of Veterans. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has pledged to be more responsive as the population of women Veterans, including those who are patients at many VA medical facilities across the country doubles— and in some cases triples over the next 10 years. According to research conducted by the Veterans Experience Office at VA Women Outpatient Clinics, while some women Veterans say they are well-cared for by their primary care provider, others say their experience needs improvement. During interviews, the group of women Veterans, who view their primary care more negatively than positively, shared these comments about their experiences:
“I’m in such pain. Why aren’t you, the doctor, treating me? Why aren’t you listening to me?”
“When I am assigned a new doctor. they do not take the time to read up on who they are seeing!”
“I want to be treated as a whole person… See me as an individual”
Annual surveys also indicate that women Veterans have lower trust scores than men. To understand why, VA is applying human-centered design to understand how women Veterans experience outpatient care. By helping document where women Veterans experience pain points along their outpatient care journey, VA can then work to address those pain points. Doing so helps ensure a consistent experience that builds trust within and across VA facilities. Improving care for women Veterans in VA can elevate the standard of care for all Veterans.
Presenting the VA Women Veterans Experience Journey Book. It builds on the VA Women Veterans Patient Experience Journey Map, which establishes the moments that matter. While this new map is not representative of every aspect of all women’s experiences with VA healthcare, it is a starting point of how VA can best build trust.
Moments that Matter for women Veterans:
- Talking to a trusted helper
- Scheduling an appointment
- Feeling safe while waiting for an appointment
- Connecting with my care provider
- Connecting with my health care team
- Connecting with other women Veterans
Key Themes for women Veterans:
- Women need empathy, compassion, respect and responsive customer service at every step of the journey.
- Women need to have a connection with their provider, healthcare team and other women Veterans.
- Women experience unequal care by facility, gender and VA employment status.
- Women sometimes have specialty care needs that are not easily addressed in the current VA structure.
- Women Veterans are eager to be involved in the design of patient experience improvements at VA.
Based on these findings and the others, VA is working to improve experiences for Women Veterans. The Veterans Experience Office is currently engaged in a six-month (completion in May, 2019) Designing with Care: Women Veterans Project, to bring together the people who are closest to the women Veterans’ primary care experience; VA providers and based on their human-centered design feedback, create resources that will improve the primary care visit experience and increase their trust in VA.