VA taking steps to address delays in veteran consultations
By News 2 Staff
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) cares deeply for every Veteran we are privileged to serve. Our goal is to provide the best quality, safe and effective health care our Veterans have earned and deserve. We take seriously any issue that occurs at any one of the more than 1,700 VA health care facilities across the country.
Any adverse incident for a Veteran within our care is one too many. When an incident occurs in our system we aggressively identify, correct and work to prevent additional risks. We conduct a thorough review to understand what happened, prevent similar incidents in the future, and share lessons learned across the system.
As a result of the consult delay issue VA discovered at two of our medical centers, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) continues to conduct a national review of consults across the system. We have redesigned the consult process to better monitor consult timeliness.
We continue to take action to strengthen oversight mechanisms and prevent a similar delay at other VA medical centers. We take any issue of this nature extremely seriously and offer our sincerest condolences to families and individuals who have been affected and lost a loved one.
As a result of the consult delay issue VA discovered at two of our medical centers, VHA continues to conduct a national review of consults across the system, which includes a review of all consults since 1999. Within this time frame over a quarter billion consults were requested across VA's system of care. A consult is a request by one provider for the clinical opinion or services of a second provider or physician.
· During this review, VA looked at all open since 1999 to ensure that proper care has been administered to patients. Within this time frame over a quarter billion consults were requested in VA.
· While these are the results of the review of high interest consults, the system-wide review of consults continues.
· High interest consults are defined as consults in the following seven areas: gastrointestinal endoscopy; cardiac catheterization; cardiology; cardiac surgery; oncology; bronchoscopy; and thoracic surgery.
· VA is re-writing the business practices of its consult system that will allow the system to distinguish true clinical consultation from other administrative uses of the consult package, and clinical staff has undergone training on the use of the system.
Based on findings from a system-wide review high interest consults and new cases of gastrointestinal cancer, VA identified 76 patients in our health care system for whom institutional disclosures were provided or attempted, based predominantly on their gastrointestinal care. Of these 76 patients, 23 have passed away.
VA uses an electronic consult management system containing all electronic consult requests. The system is intended to be used for scheduling appointments for patients in need of clinical consultations with health care providers. However, in additional to clinical consultations, the system also was used for a variety of other purposes including electronic communications between providers and notes to reserve spots in transportation vehicles. A review of data in this system showed that the vast majority of these open consult requests were not clinical in nature, and so were not closed after the request was completed-although the requests were 'open' in the system, they did not correspond to patients awaiting treatment or diagnosis.
When an adverse event occurs, VHA contacts the patient or their representative when the patient has either been harmed or may have been harmed during their care - this is known as an institutional disclosure. VHA's first priority is to notify the patient or their representative of the adverse event, as well as the patient's rights and recourse. VHA is committed to a process of full and open disclosure to Veterans and their families.