Atlanta VA Health Care System is Changing for the Better
When I was named director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Atlanta Health Care System last year, I was tasked with improving the organizational culture and making it more responsive to Veterans’ needs.
We have made real progress after seven months, and that progress started with accountability.
While we are infusing a set of higher expectations into the Atlanta system, we are proud to note that we are already exceeding the performance of non-VA health care facilities in many important areas.
The VA hospital in Decatur today outperforms both regional and national benchmarks in general primary care and prevention services, women’s health, cardiovascular health, diabetes and endocrine care, and mental health.
According to the federal government, the Atlanta hospital’s 30-day risk-adjusted mortality rates for clinical conditions such as heart attack, pneumonia and heart failure are the same or better than the U.S. national rate. What’s more, the facility’s performance meets or exceeds that of other major hospitals in the Atlanta market. This data gives us confidence in the overall quality of care the facility’s hardworking staff delivers.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie is leading a nationwide effort to prevent Veteran suicide, and the Atlanta VA is doing its part by making sure our Veterans have access to mental health services. More Veterans than ever are satisfied with the mental health care they get here, and last year, our hospital was in the top 20 percent of similarly sized facilities when it came to patients who were satisfied with this important health care service.
Over the last four years, Veterans in the Atlanta area have seen improved access to a wide range of mental health care, which can make the difference between life and death. We are here to support the national-level plan to reduce Veteran suicide once it’s unveiled by Secretary Wilkie’s task force.
The Atlanta VA system is also on top of another emerging trend: the steady rise in the number of women Veterans who expect and deserve the highest quality of care from VA. Atlanta proudly serves more women Veterans than any other VA health care system in the country, with more than 21,000 enrolled.
These improvements are taking place in the context of rising patient visits – a strong sign that despite some of the challenges we’ve had, Veterans are noticing our progress and are choosing the Atlanta VA health care system as their provider of choice.
The Atlanta VA Health Care System is one of the fastest growing facilities in the country and serves about 122,000 patients at 15 sites. In 2019, we provided nearly 1.2 million outpatient visits to Veterans and saw a 23 percent increase in daily hospital admissions from 2018.
I commit to Veterans that in 2020, we will continue our journey to becoming a more highly reliable organization and fulfil our mission of caring for Veterans who risked everything for this nation.
We will honor that trust by empowering Veterans with the information they need to make informed health care decisions, aiming for the highest standard of care, and making continuous improvements to increase the quality of service to Veterans.
America’s heroes deserve nothing less.
Ann Brown has been with the VA for more than 25 years and was appointed Director of the Atlanta VA Health Care System in May 2019. Prior to that, she served as Medical Center Director of VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, and the VA Medical Center in Martinsburg, WV.
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