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Patients rate VA medical centers high for satisfaction

Apr. 16, 2014 - 10:04AM   |  
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Patients at Veterans Affairs medical centers remain satisfied with the care they receive and complaints are down, a new survey released Wednesday by the American Customer Satisfaction Index found.

The VA’s satisfaction index for inpatient care, 84, and its index for outpatient care, 82, remained consistent for the second straight year and have held steady for the past decade — a sign that, generally, VA patients are content with their health care.

Driving the consistent ratings for inpatient care were high marks for VA in customer service, physical comfort of facilities and quality. For outpatient services, patients gave glowing scores for customer service and quality.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the survey confirms the work of Veterans Health Administration employees and provides insight for improvement.

“Our nation’s veterans deserve the best care, and the ACSI survey results help us better understand how veterans feel about their overall health care experience at VA. There is always more work to do, and we are focused on continuous improvement to the care we provide,” Shinseki said.

When compared with general satisfaction ratings of civilian hospitals, the VA results compared favorably: Under the ACSI system, civilian U.S. hospitals earned an index of 80 for inpatient customer satisfaction and 83 for outpatient care.

ACSI’s survey metrics are proprietary but the organization, founded in 1994 by University of Michigan researchers, conducts customer evaluations across a range of industries and government agencies.

According to ACSI, the VA’s customer satisfaction results are significantly higher than those for U.S. government agencies in general, which received an index of 66.

According to the survey, veterans consistently show the highest ratings for loyalty, 93 for both inpatient and outpatient. The metric usually indicates that patients are willing to say positive things about their care and use a VA medical center the next time they need treatment.

Also, according to the survey, the number of patients who logged complaints in the past year dropped from 18 percent to 14 percent for inpatients and from 11 percent to 8 percent for outpatients.

Customer complaints peaked in 2009 for inpatients at 23 percent and in 2008 at 17 percent for outpatients.

The VA has in recent months come under fire for delays in cancer treatment consultations at some VA medical centers that may have contributed to the deaths of 23 veterans and compromised the health of 53 others.

Both the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees also have heard testimony during the past several years of inadequate mental health treatment, delays in appointment times, mismanagement of VA medical centers and other issues.

The survey results are good news to the Veterans Health Administration, which is making a strategic effort to focus on preventive health care and personal health goals to ward off costly treatment, according to VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel.

“VA’s strategy of providing a personalized, proactive, patient-driven approach to health care is positively impacting veterans’ experiences at our 1700 sites of care nationwide,” Petzel said.

The ACSI telephone survey of 241 outpatients and 254 inpatients was conducted between Feb. 6 and Feb. 12. While the numbers are small, the consistent results in a survey that could swing wildly on the responses of a few, indicate overall satisfaction with the services provided, VA officials said.

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