The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is said to be among the largest integrated health care systems in America. VHA, commonly known to some simply as “The VA” or the VA healthcare system, provides services at more than 1200 health care facilities.
Of that number, there are more than 170 VA Medical Centers, over a thousand VHA outpatient locations, and over 9 million people using VA health care. With such a large number of patients, it’s not surprising that the Department of Veterans Affairs needs a designated program to provide representation and advocacy for VA patients; the VA Patient Advocacy Program was created by the Department of Veterans Affairs to help those using the VA healthcare system get the best treatment possible.
The Patient Advocacy Program is for both veterans and family members receiving care at Veterans Health Administration facilities. It’s part of a “treatment team” concept that addresses issues at every stage of care.
The VA Patient Advocacy Program Is Available At All VHA Facilities
Every person getting care at a VA facility is entitled to discuss their concerns or needs with a VA Patient Advocate. The VA official site says these professionals are “available at every medical center” run by the VA.
The Role Of The VA Patient Advocate
Patient Advocates are described by the VA as highly trained professionals who are there to resolve concerns about “any aspect” of VA healthcare, “particularly those concerns that cannot be resolved at the point of care.”
The Procedure Of Speaking To A Patient Advocate
The VA has a set of procedures all patients are asked to follow when leading up to a discussion with your Patient Advocate. In the spirit of resolving issues at the lowest level possible, the VA official site asks patients offering compliments or suggestions, or those with concerns to speak first with the treatment team before elevating things to the Patient Advocate level.
The “lowest level resolution” process will involve you speaking first to your provider, but may require you to elevate the discussion to the care provider’s supervisor or even the head of the department first depending on circumstances.
“If your concern is still unresolved” at this level, the VA official site advises patients to begin the process to contact the Patient Advocate who can help, “..in filing an appeal for a review of your concern” where applicable.
Who Is My VA Health Care Treatment Team?
The VA “treatment team” concept includes the doctor, nurse, social worker, dietitian, pharmacist, chaplain, therapist, or any other professional involved in your treatment or care.
When You Have Talked To Your VA Treatment Team But Aren’t Satisfied
This is the stage where the VA Patient Advocacy Program comes into play. Once you have tried to resolve your issue at a lower level, if you aren’t happy with the results you can request to speak to the Patient Advocate at that facility. The VA official site says these Patient Advocates are employees “specifically designated at each VHA facility to manage the feedback received from veterans, family members, and friends.”
VA Patient Advocates work directly with management and staff at VA health care sites to find a solution to the concerns brought before them. Part of your discussion with these advocates may involve a referral to medical center staff to further discuss the issue.
After Meeting With A VA Patient Advocate: Surveys And Patient Rights
The Department of Veterans Affairs may choose to contact all who choose to meet with a VA Patient advocate in order to get feedback about the experience. You may get a questionnaire by regular mail sent by the VA Office of Quality and Performance asking you to rate your level of satisfaction with your most recent VA healthcare experience (inpatient or otherwise).
According to the VA official site, these surveys are meant to “help VA identify opportunities for improvement and to note positive trends — locally, regionally and nationally.” But with the surveys, the VA also recognizes the concerns over privacy and related issues.
In the same section of the VA official site that informs VA enrollees about these optional care survey forms, there is a reminder that for all stages of the VA healthcare process, “Employees must respect and support your rights as a patient.” Those who need assistance understanding or exercising their patient rights should ask the VA treatment team and/or the VA Patient Advocate for help.
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