WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing requested by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and John Boozman (R-AR), a panel of witnesses highlighted Diffusion of Excellence – a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initiative to improve veterans’ experience at the VA. Brown invited Scott Bryant, who serves as the Innovation Specialist and Chief of Quality, Safety, and Value at Chillicothe VA Medical Center (VAMC) to join the panel and discuss improvements to access and quality of care for Ohio’s veterans. Through the Diffusion of Excellence initiative, the VA has identified innovative programs pioneered at individual VA centers and created “Gold Status Best Practices” that VA facilites across the country will implement to ensure that patients’ receive the same high-quality of medical care regardless of location. The hearing was an opportunity to highlight the effectiveness of these best practices and address the challenges that centers may face in implementing them.
“Our veterans deserve the highest quality of care,” said Brown. “I am heartened to see that Ohio VAMCs have proactively begun to implement the VA’s Diffusion of Excellence best practices and have made great strides in improving care for Ohio veterans. This initiative will put veterans’ needs first, increase the quality of care provided to veterans, and empower VA staff to come up with creative ways to improve the overall veteran experience at different facilities.”
The Diffusion of Excellence initiative focuses on several issues: restoring public trust, increasing access, improving the employee work environment, and enhancing operational best practices. These practices have been implemented in over 70 facilities in the past six months.
Chillicothe VAMC is currently implementing the VA’s “eScreening” best practice, which allows veterans to report their mental and physical health symptoms directly from the waiting room via an electronic tablet. Data from the screening is immediately transmitted to patients’ medical records, alerting medical providers to areas of high concern, giving veterans more face-to-face time with providers, and reducing administrative burden. The time saved by this process will allow the medical professionals to see more veterans and reduce the time between a first appointment with a PCP and a follow-up appointment with the necessary specialist.
All Ohio VAMCs are implementing the “Direct Scheduling in Audiology and Optometry” best practice which enables veterans to directly schedule an appointment with audiology and optometry specialists without first seeking approval from their primary care physicians (PCP). It is currently active in both specialties in Chillicothe, active in audiology in Dayton, in progress in Cleveland, and in the planning phase in Columbus. Dayton and Cleveland VAMCs are in the process of implementing the “Clinical Pharmacy Specialist” (CPS) best practice, which allows a CPS to assist in a team-based care for veterans suffering from chronic diseases, such as diabetes. A CPS can monitor a veteran during follow-up appointments, allowing for more timely access for veterans who need treatment for chronic illnesses.
Video of the hearing is available here.