VA Suspended Turn-Around Visits to Underperforming Hospitals

by Molly Wharton

The Department of Veterans Affairs temporarily discontinued a long-standing program that sent teams of experts to monitor and help improve hospitals with the worst performance rates in 2011, according to internal records and agency doctors. The program’s suspension coincided with an increase in the number of VA facilities that experienced consistently high death and complication rates.

A VA doctor told the Wall Street Journal that starting in about 2005, the VA sent a quality-improvement team to any hospital that produced consistently poor results, until the program was put on hold for two years in 2011. The head of the agency’s quality and safety program, Carolyn M. Clancy, says that the program was revived again about a year ago.

The Wall Street Journal reports that current and former VA doctors say that the “pause” in the hospital site-visit program occurred at a time when the VA’s top managers downplayed the utility of basing the rating system on specific medical outcomes.

The rating system measures hospitals according to performance standards including death rates among acute-care patients, length of stay of patients, and readmission rates, among other factors. Five VA hospitals have consistently earned just one out of a possible five stars since 2011, and in the past year two more hospitals have joined the list of underperforming hospitals.

The Journal produced this chart to show how the underperforming VA hospitals compare to their peers:

Read the Wall Street Journal article here.


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