Have you noticed something different at your VA medical center? Maybe it’s a friendly greeting that wasn’t there before. Maybe you met a helpful volunteer in a red coat or vest. Maybe you’ve noticed a cleaner, greener health care center. Maybe it was just a new, more welcoming attitude. Veterans across the nation are finding an improved experience when they go in for care at VA thanks to the VA Patient Experience (VA PX) initiatives launched by the Veteran Experience Office (VEO).
“[They] really do their best to take care of me. I feel anyone that I deal with, that they really care about me and do their best to take care of my needs. They get an A plus from me. They show me that they really want to help,” notes a Veteran from Huntington, West Virginia, where several PX tools have been implemented.
VA has been shifting the culture to put Veterans and their families at the center of every process. VEO’s Patient Experience team is supporting VA medical centers to deliver an excellent patient experience, every time. Learning from best practices in both VA and private sector, VA has created and implemented several VA PX programs to ensure every employee is trained and focused on providing Veterans not only with the care they need but also with care that is delivered in a manner that is exceptional and consistent, including:
- WECARE Rounding: Medical Center Leaders and Administrators make “rounds,” speaking directly with staff and visitors about the care and services they received
- Standard Phone Greeting: Creates a uniform way to greet callers, letting them know in a clear, friendly way who they have reached
- Red Coat Ambassadors: These ambassadors welcome Veterans and their families at medical center entrances with a friendly greeting and direct them to their destination
- Own the Moment: This customer experience workshop encourages VA staff to connect with, understand, and help guide Veterans through the moments that matter on their VA journey
- “I Choose VA” Employee Badges: Standardized VA staff badges that include helpful and interesting information such as individual connections to VA, branch of service, and hometown. These badges serve as another way for VAMC staff to connect to Veterans, their families, and Caregivers
- Green Glove Initiative: A program that encourages staff to help ensure their facility is welcoming, clean, and safe by picking up litter
You may have already noticed many of these programs in action. One Veteran from Little Rock, Arkansas, whose medical center was under renovation, was delighted by a Red Coat Ambassador. The ambassador not only noticed he was lost but personally guided him to his destination. Another Veteran from Fresno, California, noted that their experience with staff over the phone has become “simple, clear, and the tone of the employees is above par.” Since implementation of the VA PX program stories like this have been coming in throughout the VA health care system.
Last year, 86.4 percent of 1,660,563 Veterans surveyed said they trust VA, with an overwhelming majority of VA medical centers improving in that trust score from fall of 2017. In June of 2018, Forrester’s US 2018 Customer Experience (CX) Index reported that VA is one of only two federal agencies that has improved their customer experience in the past year.
The quality of medical care Veterans are receiving has improved as well. Over the course of twelve months, 61 facilities improved their overall rating of the hospital score on the SAIL Scorecard. In that same period, 90 facilities improved their overall rating of the primary care provider score and 105 facilities improved their best place to work score.
The work is far from over. VA PX hopes to grow and mature the practice of patient experience across the VA. Through supportive communities of practice, the development and roll out of new focused initiatives, and VA PX facility-based consultative services, the VA PX team will remain available to support and sustain the growth of PX in facilities nationwide. In February 2019, hundreds of VA employees will come together in Arlington, VA to share how they are making the Veteran Experience better, and help shape the future of VA PX and Veteran care at the first annual VA PX Symposium. This is the first gathering of its kind at VA and will no doubt serve as a significant milestone in the future of VA PX.