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What do veterans think of Dayton VA? Survey finds increase in trust

Dayton Daily News - 1/3/2019

Jan. 03--Patient trust at the Dayton VA Medical Center increased in the past year, according to a recent survey of veterans.

A recent U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs customer experience feedback survey showed a 2.4 percent increase in veteran trust of VA hospitals during fiscal year 2018. The "trust scores" of 128 out of 139 VA medical centers increased by an average of 2.4 percent by the end of the fiscal year.

"Listening to our veteran patients plays an important role in providing world class customer service," said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The Dayton VA Medical Center received an average 87.7 "trust score" from October 2017 to September 2018, ending the survey with an 88.1 "trust score," according to Dayton VA Medical Center Director Jill Dietrich. The center's final score increased from 86.2 in October 2017.

The VA surveyed 1.6 million veterans, from fall 2017 to September 2018, regarding their trust of VA health care outpatient services. The survey revealed veterans were concerned with issues such as the accessibility of specialty providers and services, while typical recommendations from veterans incorporated ways to improve parking at facilities and methods of expediting access to medications.

Dietrich told the Dayton Daily News about 10,000 local veterans submitted feedback about their experience at the Dayton VA. Dietrich, who manages 2,300 employees and a $435 million budget, has oversight of the sprawling hospital campus in Dayton and four clinics in in Richmond, Indiana, and Springfield, Middletown and Lima. She started in the position in April.

"I do think our veterans are very aware that our staff is caring and will go above and beyond," Dietrich said. "I believe if we continue to focus on the areas of concern that we do receive, we will continue to pick up."

Dietrich said veterans submitted complaints about the timeframe for medication mailing through the VA Mail Order Pharmacy. "We have taken that to heart and we are looking at our process," she said, with the VA tweaking its pharmacy refill line and educating veterans about the best times to order or refill prescriptions.

The Dayton VA is also revamping its liaison program, so that all services have dedicated liaisons who communicate with veterans about issues they face at the hospital. "We expect all of these individuals to be trained by March. They'll know who to go to address their concerns."

Mark Landers, executive director of Montgomery County Veterans Services, said the Dayton VA could facilitate more positive ratings if the hospital shortened wait times in specialty care programs. Landers, a retired U.S. Army colonel, said the Dayton VA does an excellent job of communicating appointment times and processes.

"I've never had more than a five-minute wait," he said.

In October, the Dayton Daily News reported the Dayton VA received the worst performance rating in Ohio by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Dayton VA received "three stars," a level that showed only "trivial" improvement at most, according to the VA. VA medical centers in Chillicothe and Columbus each received four stars while locations in Cincinnati and Cleveland received five.

"The executive leadership in Dayton is taking the results of this report seriously," said Bradley Wilson, a program analyst in charge of quality management at the Dayton VA medical center, in October. Wilson said the rating doesn't reflect changes already underway.

Nationwide, the VA is also implementing a customer experience feedback program in alignment with the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-11 guidance on establishing and managing a customer experience program.

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