When it comes to VA health care, Veterans have many options to provide feedback to VA. Veterans’ concerns could be as simple as requesting a different physician or more complex, like requesting a different treatment plan. In these instances, Veterans interact with Patient Advocates. A Patient Advocate is a VA employee that tracks and resolves a Veteran’s concerns. To better meet increased demand–and after years of research and development–VA has now unveiled the Patient Advocate Tracking System Replacement (PATS-R), and has implemented it nationwide.
PATS-R helps VA’s patient care teams at VA Medical Centers to work together to understand and address Veteran feedback and concerns. For Veterans with concerns and questions, that means better, faster service recovery and an improved customer experience.
How it works
PATS-R streamlines the process for managing Veteran feedback, and it empowers VA employees to “own” their patient customer’s experience. Over the past six months, the PATS-R deployment team has visited all VA hospitals nationwide to conduct on-site training. Nearly 8,300 Patient Advocates and front line personnel have been trained on the new tool. Before PATS-R, concerns at VA Medical Centers had to be routed through the Patient Advocates. They would reach out to the appropriate office to address the issue, typically via e-mail. Now the office and departments affected receive immediate notification of issues and the office or department’s staff can respond to issues on the spot.
PATS-R decentralizes patient advocacy; VA employees are now better equipped to resolve issues on the spot.
Tracking and identifying issues
The new system also prioritizes and tracks cases. Beyond individual cases, PATS-R helps to identify trends in issues that are reported by Veterans repeatedly in a facility or across the nation. That information allows VA to proactively find and address the root cause of issues in its facilities. The tool also tracks compliments, so that employees who embody best practices are acknowledged. Knowing what is working well is as powerful as understanding the gaps in service.
PATS-R was developed and implemented in partnership between the Veteran Experience Office (VEO), the Office of Patient Advocacy, VA Medical Centers (VAMCs), and Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs). PATS-R is part of a larger strategy for improving how concerns and inquiries are handled across VA. The next step is to integrate with other feedback management systems to improve collaboration and help Veterans with services outside of the medical facility, such as with the White House/VA Hotline.
Modernizing customer service
This tool is one of several ways VA is modernizing its customer service delivery to ensure that Veterans have a positive experience at VA. Samuel Strother, a Risk Manager at the Atlanta VAMC, is excited about how PATS-R empowers employees to best serve our Veterans, saying it “connects all of us. It allows each and every person in the system to serve as a Patient Advocate.”
This story is part of the Secretary’s Priorities series, which was outlined to the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Military Constructions, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies on Feb. 26, 2019, by VA Secretary Wilkie. The Secretary’s Priorities are Customer Service, MISSION Act, Electronic Health Record, Transforming Business Systems, and Suicide Prevention. These stories are designed to give a closer look at the improvements VA is making in how we relate to, interact with, and ultimately serve our Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.