Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Monthly Report from the Director
Scott R. Isaacks, FACHE
Medical Center Director
In previous monthly reports, I have noted that last year VA developed a comprehensive new tool for assessing the performance of all VA facilities across a wide variety of clinical and administrative areas called the Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning Value Model (SAIL). Over the course of just a couple quarters, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center made significant improvements – jumping from a 3-Star rating to our current standing as a 5-Star facility in a very short time period. Just a few weeks ago, I was notified that our medical center achieved the 5-Star rating for the 4th quarter in a row, an accomplishment that sets our VA – your VA - apart as one of the premier VA facilities nationally and is a true testament to the quality care our Veterans receive here every day. The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is one of only a select few VA facilities to attain the coveted 5-Star rating, keeping us in the top 10% of medical centers in the United States. We are also now rated as the 3rd most efficient VA in the U.S. Achieving the 5-Star rating is a major milestone – continuing to achieve this level of quality for such a long period of time, is truly an incredible accomplishment that assures our Veterans they are receiving the best care anywhere.
There are several factors that contribute to our quality care achievements, one of which is our focus on Patient Family Centered Care and partnering with Veterans and their families to improve health outcomes. As part of this commitment, Veterans are encouraged to establish a Personalized Health Plan with realistic goals for improving overall health and wellness. Often these goals – exercising three times a week, skydiving on your 70th birthday, or going on vacation to Disney World with your grandchildren – involves the entire family and serves to improve everyone’s overall health. For instance, you may need to build up to walking three miles a day to be able to play for five days at Disney World. At the same time, you may lower your blood pressure because you’re walking that three miles every day and your spouse might do the same thing. What a win for everyone! If you have not established a Personalized Health Plan yet, I encourage you to do so at your next visit.
Welcome New Team Members
I am very pleased to welcome Ms. Pamela Crowell as our new Associate Director. Pamela joined our team earlier this month, coming to Charleston from the New Mexico VA Health Care System where she has served as Associate Director since 2013. Prior to her role as Associate Director, she served as Assistant Director and Chief of Performance Improvement at New Mexico VA Health Care System. Pamela holds a Bachelor of Science from Northern State University and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of South Dakota.
I am also pleased to welcome Mr. Josh Dixon as our new Chief of Customer Service. Josh has served as the Deputy Chief of Prosthetics at the Ralph H. Johnson VA medical Center prior to his new role. He is a passionate advocate for our Veterans and is focused on improving communication and responsiveness to ensure the highest level of service at each patient interaction. I know you will all look forward to getting to know both Pamela and Josh, and to working with them to move our VA forward.
Growth, Access and Veterans Choice
For the past year, the VA nationally has been acutely focused on improving access to care for Veterans. The result has been 7 million more appointments for Veterans within the VA healthcare system and in the community than in the previous 12 months—double the capacity required to meet last year’s demand. VA wide, the total number of appointments is up 12% over the last 12 months indicating that not only are more Veterans coming to the VA, but they are also using VA for more care.
Locally, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center has seen an FY15 year to date unique patient growth of 9.64 percent—increasing to over 63,356 unique patients. Women Veterans are the fastest growing group of unique patients, increasing from 5,855 in 2013 to now 6,558. Over the past two years, we have experienced a 16.2 percent increase in overall outpatient visits, most notably; our Hinesville Outpatient Clinic has seen a 2 year percent change of 144.9 percent. Even with this tremendous growth our VA has continued our track record of good access to care completing 98% or higher of appointments each month in FY15 within 30 days. This month we completed 53,222 appointments total, with 99.14% of them being completed within 30 days. Wait times within the Charleston VA health care system are consistently substantially lower than the national averages for primary care, mental health and specialty clinic appointments. To help maintain timely access to care, our medical center approved approximately 240 new staff in FY14, and 278 new staff FY15 year to date. These positions include both the clinical and support staff needed to meet our growing population’s needs. We also extended clinic hours offering evening and weekend appointments, expanded tele-health and continued a number of strategies to ensure our Veterans receive the right care at the right time.
We are also utilizing the Veterans Choice Program to provide access to community care. Veterans may be eligible for community if our VA cannot provide care within 30 days or if a Veteran lives more than 40 miles away from the nearest VA facility. It’s extremely important that Veterans not seek care in the community without making sure they are eligible. If a Veteran has a question about their eligibility or how the program works, please ask them to call 1-866-606-8198.
Illustration shared with the Charleston community by local graphic artist, Gil Schuler. www.gilschulergraphicdesign.com
Finally, I want to say how inspired I am by the response of our community to the tragedy that took place at Emmanuel AME Church on June 17. Nine incredible lives that influenced so many in the Lowcountry and beyond were taken that night. They were mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, pastors and leaders whose presence and loss will be forever felt in our community. Our hearts grieve along with their families and friends. But we find inspiration in the forgiveness extended by their families and the grace and fortitude our community has shown to one another and the world. We are Charlestonians and our love for one another, our city and our nation will always bind us together. I am proud to be part of this community and I am proud to serve its Veterans. Thank you for the privilege.