VA: 71% of medical centers are improving. Is yours?

Jonathan Kaupanger
September 18, 2018 - 5:07 pm

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The 2018 grades are out and VA is reporting an improvement to 71 percent of its medical centers.  Out of the 15 VAMC placed under the Strategic Action for Transformation (StAT) program, four have improved enough to be removed from the program.

For the previous two years, Veterans Affairs rated medical centers from one to five stars.  This year, they are no longer using stars, so VA released raw data for each center instead.  Connecting Vets used ratings from 2016 and 2017 to find the 19 lowest rated medical centers, then compared them with the 2018 raw data.

Below are  VA’s lowest rated medical centers, centers with the largest ratings drop between 2016 and 2017, and the two centers with the best ratings increase.  Four VAMCs improved enough to be removed from the StAT program.

Here’s how VA is grading these medical centers for 2018:

VAMCs with a one-star rating in 2016 and 2017; Improved enough in 2018 to be removed from StAT:

  • Carl Vinson VA Medical Center Dublin, Georgia The center has improved acute care mortality rates. This represents the number of patients admitted to acute care but died within 30 days of hospital admission.  The average length of stay per person and wait times for new specialty care appointments have improved, too.   Where they can improve: The inpatient experience saw an almost 10 point drop and wait times for both new appointments and mental health appointments increased slightly.
  • Tennessee Valley Healthcare System – Nashville Campus Of the four centers removed from StAT, Nashville’s VAMC is showing the most improvement. Acute care mortality, length of stay, 30-day readmission rate and wait times for new appointments have all decreased. Where they can improve: Wait times for new specialty care and mental health appointments have both increased and the inpatient patient experience dipped almost two points.

VAMCs with a two-star rating in 2016 and one-star in 2017: Improved enough in 2018 to be removed from StAT:

  • Roseburg VA Health Care System, Roseburg, Oregon Wait times for specialty care appointments are reduced as is the 30-day readmission rate.  The inpatient patient experience increased by almost 7 percentage points.  Where they can improve:  Wait times for new appointments increased by over 20 percent, mental health appointment wait times grew slightly as well. 
  • VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System, Harlingen, Texas This center is no longer on the StAT list, but there’s a significant amount of data missing from the report.  We can say that employee satisfaction at the medical center grew by almost two percentage points.  Where they can improve: Wait times for new, specialty and mental health appointments all saw an increase.

VAMC’s with a one-star rating in 2016 and 2017.  These centers remain in VA’s StAT program.

  • Phoenix VA Health Care System, Phoenix, Arizona   Acute care mortality, adjusted length of stay and the hospital-wide 30-day readmission rate are all down in Phoenix.   Where they can improve:  The inpatient patient experience dropped by almost five points last year.  Wait times are up for all new, specialty and mental health appointments
  • VA Central California Health Care System, Fresno, California The center saw an improvement in the patient experience and a decrease in the 30-day readmission rate.   Where they can improve:  Wait times are up for new, specialty and mental health appointments.  There is also an increase in acute care mortality, in-hospital complications and the 30-day readmission rate.
  • VA Loma Linda Healthcare System, Loma Linda, California   The patient experience here has improved in the last year. The 30-day readmission rate and adjusted length of stay are both down.  Where they can improve:  Acute care mortality and in-hospital complications are both up, but just slightly.  Wait times for new, specialty and mental health appointments are all up here.
  • Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, Biloxi, Mississippi  This medical center improved its acute care mortality, length of stay and 30-day readmission rate.  Where they can improve: In-hospital complications grew slightly here and the patient experience went down by half a percent.  Wait times are up for new, specialty care and mental health appointments when compared to this time last year.
  • Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center & Clinics, White City, Oregon   Data is incomplete for this medical center, but wait times for specialty care appointments have improved, but only by less than one percent.  Where they can improve:  New appointments and mental health appointments both saw a slight increase to wait times.  The employee satisfaction dropped by two percent as well.
  • Memphis VA Medical Center, Memphis, Tennessee  This center has improved its acute care mortality, length of stay and 30-day readmission rate.  Where they can improve: Wait times for new appointments and specialty care has increased significantly.  Mental health appointment wait time is slightly better but still shows an uptick.  The inpatient patient experience dipped by just over seven points, also.
  • Tennessee Valley Healthcare System – Alvin C. York Campus, Murfreesboro, Tennessee   Wait times for new appointments improved here by almost 10 percent as well as reducing the length of stay for patients.  Where they can improve: Acute care mortality, in-hospital complications and the 30-day readmission rate have all increased slightly.  Wait times for specialty care and mental health appointments are longer as well. 
  • West Texas VA Health Care System, Big Spring, Texas  Because the data for this center is missing, we are unable to report on any improvements at this time.  Where they can improve:  Employee satisfaction is down by more than three points at this hospital.  Wait times are all up for new, specialty and mental health appointments. 
  • El Paso VA Health Care System, El Paso, Texas  Data is missing for this medical center, however, employee job satisfaction grew by just over five points since last year.  Where they can improve: Wait times are higher for new, specialty and mental health appointments. 

VAMC rated with two-stars in 2016 dropping to one-star in 2017.  This center remains in VA’s StAT program.

  • Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center, Walla Walla, Washington  Data is missing for this center also, but wait times for specialty appointments dropped slightly this year.  Employee satisfaction grew slightly as well.  Where they can improve:  Wait times for new appointments grew by almost 20 percent.  Same for mental health appointments, but only slightly.

Of all the centers still with VA’s StAT program, this one had the largest rating drop from three-stars in 2016 down to one-star in 2017:

  • Hampton VA Medical Center, Hampton, Virginia  The center did improve its acute care mortality and new appointment wait times.  Where they can improve:  In-hospital complications, length of stay and hospital-wide 30-day readmission rate all grew slightly and the patient experience went down by just over three points.

These two medical centers had the most significant ratings decrease from 2016 to 2017, dropped from four down to two stars, however, both are showing signs of improvement this year. 

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower VA Medical Center, Leavenworth, Kansas    This center saw a decreased in acute care mortality, in-hospital complications and the length of stay.   Where they can improve: All wait times have increased at this medical center. 
  • VA Black Hills Health Care System – Hot Springs Campus, Hot Springs, South Dakota  The inpatient patient experience has improved.  Where they can improve; Appointment wait times are up at this center.

Representing the largest ratings increase, these two medical centers jumped up two-stars from 2016 to 2017. 

  • Montana VA Health Care System, Fort Harrison, Montana  Rated one-star in 2016, this medical center jumped up to a three-star rating in 2017.  Acute care mortality, in-hospital complications and adjusted length of stay are all down here.  Wait times for specialty care appointments have reduced here as well.  Where they can improve:  Wait times for new appointments has increased by almost 30 percent.  You’ll also have a slightly longer wait for a mental health appointment here when compared to the same time last year.
  • James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center, Altoona, Pennsylvania  Rated three-stars in 2016 and hitting the max rating of five-stars last year, this center improved acute care mortality and in-hospital complications this year.  Where they can improve: The inpatient patient experience dropped by just over 10 points and wait times are up for new, specialty care and mental health appointments.

These report cards are released quarterly and you can see how your medical center is doing here

            Contact us about this article or share your story at gethelp@connectingvets.com