With the aim of increasing transparency, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) this week launched a new online Access and Quality Tool that provides veterans with a way of accessing patient wait time and quality of care data.
The website, www.accesstocare.va.gov, offers patients of the VA health system the ability to answer four questions: How quickly can my VA facility see me? How satisfied are veterans with their care in my facility? How does care in my VA facility compare to other hospitals in the area? How is the VA system doing with access nationally?
The tool allows veterans to access the average times patients are waiting to be seen in their local area; how veterans describe their experiences scheduling primary- and specialty-care appointments at specific VA facilities; timeliness of appointments for care needed right away; and the quality of health care delivered at VA medical centers compared with local private-sector hospitals.
To provide patients with data about how individual VA medical centers compare to other hospitals, the website provides data on example quality measures found on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital Compare. The site will soon offer outpatient compare data as well.
According to the VA officials, the Access and Quality Tool is the most transparent and easy to understand wait time and quality data website in the healthcare industry.
“Veterans must have access to information that is clear and understandable to make informed decisions about their health care,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, M.D., said in a statement. “No other healthcare system in the country releases this type of information on wait times. This allows veterans to see how VA is performing.”
Acting Under Secretary for Health Poonam Alaigh, M.D., said in a statement that the transparency website another example of VA leading the way and that the tool “will instill a spirit of competition and encourage our medical facilities to proactively address access and quality issues while empowering veterans to make choices according to what works best for them and their families.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), majority leader in the House of Representatives, praised the new transparency site on Twitter, saying the new Access and Quality Tool is “an important step towards a 21st century VA.” And wrote, “I think @SecShulkin for working to modernize the VA and help transform it to a transparent, efficient and accountable institution.”
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