The Sioux Falls VA Health Care System pilot streamlines community care for Veterans


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The days of playing phone tag with the Sioux Falls VA Health Care System is over. The Care in the Community Customer Walk-In Department allows Veterans to walk-in, meet with a representative, and leave with an appointment in hand that same day.

It’s a big step forward, especially compared to how it used to be when the Sioux Falls VA Health Care System found it was making, on average, four to five phone calls to Veterans per consult to schedule community health care provider appointments in the community.

Realizing that this created a poor experience for both the Veteran and VA employees, the executive leadership team envisioned a streamlined solution. The team developed a Value Stream Map to visualize the steps needed to take the Care in the Community Customer Walk-in model from creation to delivering it to Veterans. Using the Value Stream Map allowed the team to see a top-down overview of the process and analyze the workflow while identifying wastes and inefficiencies.

Starting out with three Care in the Community schedulers, the team set out to prove what they learned would work.

The pilot project lasted three months with three Care in the Community schedulers assisting Veterans face-to-face with appointments with health care providers in the community. In late August 2018, the successful Customer Walk-in Department pilot project became fully operational with two additional schedulers giving the new department five total schedulers to assist Veterans requesting health care in the community.

Corey Nielsen, Program Support Assistant with Community Care at the Sioux Falls VA, helps John, an Army National Guard Veteran, schedule an appointment with a community healthcare provider.

Beth Schmidt, a Patient Advocate at Sioux Falls VA Health Care System, was a big supporter of the walk-in department and felt there was a need to improve the way Veterans were scheduled to receive health care in the community.

“If we are wanting to provide the best customer experience for our Veterans, we have to be willing to change our approach,” says Schmidt.

Today, the Care in the Community Customer Walk-in Department maintains about a 20 percent walk-in rate and processes about 2,000 consults a month.

The Walk-in Department is currently at the VA Sioux Falls Regional Office, located at 2501 W 22nd St Bldg 38, Sioux Falls, SD, which is about a 1/4 mile from Sioux Falls VA Health Care System. Future plans include moving the clinic on-site to the medical center as soon as space becomes available.

For more on VA’s Care in the Community visit: https://www.va.gov/communitycare/.

Author

Brett Robbins

Brett Robbins is an Army Veteran serving as a communications specialist detailed to Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Experience Office.

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