by Mary Dillinger, Public Affairs Officer, NAVAHCS
Did you know there are more than 1,240 health-care facilities within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)? The VA provides exceptional health care from Homer, Alaska, and Kings Hill, U.S. Virgin Islands to Calais, Maine and right here in Prescott, Arizona. Did you also know that over 350,000 employees, with approximately a third being Veterans themselves, provide care to more than 9 million Veterans across the country?
A Veteran’s choice of health-care providers is more than just about the facts and figures, it’s about receiving high-quality, evidence-based coordinated care. The fact of the matter is that VA health-care providers are better equipped than non-VA hospitals, with more experience, expertise and the latest state-of-the-art technology to treat the unique medical and mental health issues of our nation’s heroes.
Just like any other large organization, the VA has faced its share of challenges. As the second largest federal department, we are constantly striving to find ways to better serve Veterans. And a recent independent report demonstrates our hard work is paying off.
A new study by Dartmouth College led by a professor critical of the VA in the past, found VA hospitals were consistently better on almost every quality measure. The VA was the best or above average in most markets for treating heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia. More often than not, the VA had the best quality care in local hospital markets for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). The study also found the VA ranked best in local markets at least half the time for measures including death rates among patients with serious complications after surgery, collapsed lung due to medical treatment, broken hip from a fall after surgery, and bloodstream infections after surgery.
The Northern Arizona VA Health Care System (NAVAHCS) was one of the VA facilities making positive strides in quality and efficiency benchmarks this past year and is striving to continue progress. The NAVAHCS campus in Prescott includes a level-three medical center offering primary care, mental health care, specialty care and emergency care services to more than 28,000 Veterans.
The NAVAHCS operates an emergency department, which is open 24 hours, seven days a week. Additionally, mental health specialists are available to assist Veterans in need, day or night. Veterans with mental health and vocational goals can receive treatment during a short-term stay in our Inpatient Domiciliary Residential Treatment Program.
Although long- and short-term care, as well as hospice and dementia care, are in short supply in the community, our Community Living Center (CLC) offers all of this. With a higher staff-to-patient ratio than in the private sector, our CLC programs are individualized with a focus on improving the Veteran’s overall health and well-being. One of our Veterans refers to his CLC team as “his girls” and says he “is happy to be alive, thanks to the wonderful staff at the VA.”
To provide medical care closer to where a Veteran lives, NAVAHCS has outpatient clinics in Flagstaff, Kingman, Anthem, Cottonwood, Lake Havasu, Holbrook, Tuba City, Page, Polacca, Kayenta, and Chinle. We offer primary care, mental health and laboratory services at these areas either in person or through use of telemedicine.
The VA has established itself as a leader in telemedicine (the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications) with the capability to offer convenient appointments at outpatient clinics and even in a Veteran’s home. Available for more than 45 different clinical areas, telehealth offers the same services as a face-to-face appointment without the lengthy and exhausting drive to a VA facility.
With home telehealth, health-care providers are able to monitor and educate patients with chronic illness. Currently, more than 380 Veterans within the NAVAHCS are using this “Right Care, Right Place, Right Time” technology. Each patient has a care coordinator and uses a home computer/tablet or telephone to share such data as heart rate, blood pressure or glucose level. In real time, health-care providers can gather essential medical information and adjust treatment plans when necessary.
Ease in Scheduling
NAVAHCS now offers the Veteran Appointment Request (VAR) application, conveniently available for download on any phone or computer. This is a quick and easy way for Veterans to schedule their own primary care and mental health appointments based on their schedule. To keep track of VA appointments or cancel if necessary, the VeText system sends reminder texts to a Veteran’s cellphone. To sign up for the VeText service, a Veteran simply provides a cellphone number to his or her clinic. No registration or application process is needed.
Making Advances in Health Care
Because the VA is a nationwide health care system, Veterans in northern Arizona benefit from a wide variety of medical and surgical advances, ground-breaking research and innovative technology.
The VA had an electronic medical record system in 1996, more than a decade before the private sector. Furthermore, the VA was key in the development of the cardiac pacemaker, the CT scan, artificial limbs, the nicotine patch, the shingles vaccine, innovative approaches to geriatric and end-of-life care, and performed the first-ever liver transplant.
VA technological advances in a revolutionary system called BrainGate help people with total paralysis control robotic arms using only their thoughts. Today, VA research is developing new treatments for traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, PTSD, Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and more. Because it treats so many patients with prostate cancer, the VA received a $50 million grant from the Prostate Cancer Foundation to discover new treatments for that disease.
Our Team of NAVAHCS employees is proud of the VA’s achievements, feel privileged to work for our Veterans, and is extremely honored to provide timely, high-quality, evidence-based coordinated care for every Veteran who chooses the VA. Learn more by calling 928-717-7587 or visiting prescott.va.gov.