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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Fact Sheet

December 18, 2007

Fact Sheet:
Quality of Care at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center


  • MEDVAMC employs more than 3,000 people. The facility has 357 hospital beds, a 40-bed Spinal Cord Injury Center, and a 120-bed transitional care unit for long-term care.
  • The MEDVAMC operates the largest VA residency program with more than 251 slots. Each academic year, more than 1,000 students are trained through 112 affiliation agreements with institutions of higher learning in 13 states.
  • Located on a 118-acre campus and built in 1991, MEDVAMC is a state-of-the-art facility with an automated, computer-controlled transport system delivering food, laundry, and supplies throughout the building. The 6-story granite building is designed with 4 exterior sections and 4 atriums containing patio gardens, wheelchair basketball courts, and a rehabilitation pool. All long-term care units at the facility were specifically designed for current use. On each floor, there are 4 pneumatic trash and linen chutes. Each chute takes soiled linens and the majority of generated trash directly to either dumpsters or the in-house laundry. This eliminates the possibility of moving contaminated items within the main building.
  • Free valet parking is available at the MEDVAMC main entrance for veterans. This service operates Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except for federal holidays. A “No Tipping” policy is strictly enforced. This service is extremely valuable for elderly, wheelchair or scooter-bound, and heat-sensitive veterans.
  • MEDVAMC staff members meet with local Reserve and National Guard units in southeast Texas before and after they deploy in order to brief them on available VA benefits. Working closely with the VA Regional Office, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Camp Pendleton, and the National Naval Medical Center, the MEDVAMC coordinates travel, transfers, and medical care for OIF/OEF service members.
  • 1999 – Activated in 1977, the Beaumont VA Outpatient Clinic was relocated to a new 28,180 square-foot facility. The clinic has more than 55 staff members working in the areas of primary care, pharmacy, laboratory, radiology, physical therapy, mental health, podiatry, and nutrition.
  • November 2004 - MEDVAMC’s VA Outpatient Clinic in Lufkin, activated in 1991, was officially renamed under Public Law 108-422 (S. 424) in honor of former U.S. Representative Charles Wilson. A renaming ceremony was held on July 7, 2005.
  • April 2005 - VA's largest Fisher House opened at the MEDVAMC. The new Fisher House includes guest suites with private baths, communal kitchen, living and dining rooms, a library, a family room and a manager’s office. This facility is available free of charge to families of veterans being treated for long-term illnesses.
  • 2005 - The MEDVAMC opened two new Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Galveston County. The Galveston CBOC opened March 4, 2005 and the Texas City CBOC opened April 4, 2005. In January 2005, officials at the MEDVAMC began the contracting process for a new, larger facility for the Charles Wilson Outpatient Clinic in Lufkin. 
  • August 2005 - MEDVAMC added an extremely important and timely program to its array of available health care services, a Polytrauma Network Site in order to care for returning war-wounded with complex, multiple injuries such as amputations, traumatic brain injuries, and psychological adjustment problems.
  • August 2005 - As the country realized the devastation Hurricane Katrina inflicted along the Gulf Coast, the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) was activated. In Houston, this meant area hospitals began gearing up to receive patients from the hurricane-affected areas under the coordination of the MEDVAMC. That day, the MEDVAMC began moving supplies, equipment, and personnel to Ellington Field to establish a Patient Reception Team (PRT). With the first C-130 Air National Guard military transport aircraft arriving at 9 p.m. on August 31, 2005, the MEDVAMC PRT medically triaged almost 800 patients from 21 flights in the next five days. The patients, ranging from a 4-month-old to the very elderly, were generally suffering from dehydration and fatigue. The team saw a variety of medical conditions including recent organ transplants, blood clots, ventilator-dependent patients, obstetric emergencies, heart attacks, emergency dialysis, infections, and strokes. In the next two weeks, the MEDVAMC admitted more than 100 patients from the hurricane-affected areas.
  • September 2005 - As part of a multi-level plan to provide health care to veterans evacuated from New Orleans, the MEDVAMC opened the New Orleans Houston-based VA Outpatient Clinic on September 8, 2005. The clinic provided primary care, pharmacy, and mental health services for hurricane-affected veterans.
  • December 2005 – MEDVAMC opens a Diagnostic Referral Center (DRC), providing outpatient surgery and specialty care services (orthopedics, neurosurgery, vascular, cardiothoracic, cardiology, ophthalmology, and gastro-intestinal) to nine other VAMCs within VISN 16. As of March 2007, the DRC provided an average of 250 outpatient care consults per month.
  • August 2006 - MEDVAMC received official designation as a Liver Transplant Center from the VA.
  • October 2006 – MEDVAMC opened a new Cancer Center, a 14,000 square foot, completely remodeled wing, to bring together health care specialists from all parts of the medical center including Medical Oncology, Hematology, Surgical Oncology, Urology, Radiation Oncology, Digestive Diseases, Pulmonary Medicine, and Pathology with the goal of ensuring each veteran receives state of the art cancer care. 
  • November 2006 – MEDVAMC, in cooperation with The Task Force for Houston Area Homeless Veterans, The Coalition for the Homeless and U.S. Veterans Initiative, hosts the 6th Houston Area Stand Down for homeless veterans.
  • February 2007 – MEDVAMC held a ribbon cutting ceremony on February 26, 2007 opening a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Conroe.
  • June 2007 - MEDVAMC accepted an offer from the T.L.L. Temple Foundation to fund a multi-year contract supplying a 50-passenger coach with a restroom and capacity for two wheelchair bound passengers to transport veterans from Lufkin to the medical center in Houston.
  • November 2007 – MEDVAMC, in cooperation with The Task Force for Houston Area Homeless Veterans, The Coalition for the Homeless and U.S. Veterans Initiative, hosts the 7th Houston Area Stand Down for homeless veterans.

Patient Care

  • MEDVAMC operates a Wound Clinic with wound consults performed by a certified wound-care physician and nurse practitioner. Weekly skin rounds are done in long-term care units to identify and treat skin breakdowns early. In both Home-based Primary Care and long-term care units, digital cameras are used to document wound healing and progression in each patient’s electronic medical record. Wound prevalence studies are performed quarterly. Long-term care patients must have a physician’s order to remain in bed; otherwise, all patients are assisted from their bed daily. 
  • Pressure ulcer prevention is a multifaceted process at the MEDVAMC. Unit skin resource nurses assess each patient for specific needs. This may include a pressure-reducing mattress, special boots to protect the heels and feet, turning schedules as well as out-of-bed schedules, and a skin care treatment plan designed to improve the overall condition of the skin. Each patient’s nutritional status is examined and supplements are provided if indicated. Physical therapy is consulted if needed to facilitate a patient's ability to move about in the bed independently. In 2004, the MEDVAMC began using digital imagery to document and manage individual wound care.
  • 2004 - Medical Care Line reorganized its structure and processes. The new configuration focuses on patient care and satisfaction. Care is organized into teams consisting of 3 medical students, 2 interns, 1 senior resident, and 1 attending physician. Each team is assigned to 2 inpatient units and the corresponding patients, unit nurses, social worker, and support staff. The offices of the medical team members are located on the inpatient unit. This new structure, under the supervision of new position, the director of inpatient medicine, is beginning to have the desired result of improved communication, cooperation, and team building. Patients and their family members now know they have an identified team of health care professionals looking after them and know where to turn for assistance. In 2005, each team added an administrative assistant to solve patient complaints, assist with patient movement and timely completion of all medical orders, anticipate problems, and provide individualized customer service.
  • January 2005 - A new telemetry system was installed allowing staff members to monitor inpatients for vital signs and arrhythmias when they are located virtually in any bed in the facility.
  • January 2006 - The Substance Dependence and Vocational Rehabilitation Program at the MEDVAMC received funding to serve as a mentor site for a new initiative focusing on veterans with severe mental illnesses. The “Supported Employment” program is designed primarily to help disabled veterans find and maintain competitive employment.
  • March 2006 - MEDVAMC opens a fifth Primary Care Clinic inside its main hospital building in Houston. The goal of this new clinic is to decrease the amount of time veterans wait for primary care appointments.
  • March 2006 - The complete restructuring of all Urology clinics has more than doubled the number of appointments slots each month, from 776 to over 1,700. The clinic’s hours were also expanded to five days a week, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic’s no-show/cancellation rate has dropped from 28 percent to 16 percent since the change. Most importantly, appointments are made within 30 days for virtually all patients and within a week for many. 
  • May 2006 - The MEDVAMC Outpatient Pharmacy held the grand opening of its new check-in system and expanded waiting area.
  • February 2007 - Houston is one of 30 communities where the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will take its substance abuse services directly to the area’s homeless. Under its Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, the MEDVAMC will receive special funding to hire an addiction therapist who will work directly in homeless shelters, counseling veterans with substance abuse problems.
  • April 2007 - Veterans with diabetes in southeast Texas are getting initial screening for possible eye disease during their primary care appointments at the MEDVAMC and the Beaumont VA Outpatient Clinic, thanks to a national teleretinal imaging program.
  • April 2007 - The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) developed and expanded several programs to provide mental health screening, counseling, and early treatment to meet the needs of our nation's newest veterans — the men and women who have served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq (OIF).
  • November 2007 - As part of the treatment course for stroke victims, Medical Care Line and the Neurology Care Line at the MEDVAMC joined efforts to establish a Neuro-Medical Stepdown Unit.
  • December 2007 - A 63 year-old, U.S. Navy veteran from Webster, Tx. has become the first patient to undergo orthotopic liver transplantation at the MEDVAMC. The surgery, which took place on November 30, represents a milestone locally in the field of organ transplantation and provides end-stage liver disease veterans with state-of-the-art care.

Patient & Environmental Safety and Well-Being

  • MEDVAMC is in full compliance with all of the JCAHO 2004 National Patient Safety Goals and monitors ongoing compliance through twice-weekly rounds and other established internal controls.
  • MEDVAMC Infection Control program in place diligently monitors infection occurrences to compare results with expected outcomes for the patient population surveyed. In turn, this information is used to improve the care of future patients. Infection surveillance strategies at the MEDVAMC are facility-specific. The surveillance plan was designed after assessing the types of patients served. Surveillance activities target nosocomial infections or related processes that impact the highest risk patients, which occur with high frequency, or which may result in the most significant outcomes.
  • Waterless hand-washing dispensers are in place on all MEDVAMC long-term care units.
  • MEDVAMC housekeeping staff receives initial training and subsequent refresher training in the areas of safety, infection control, and the latest cleaning technology. In conjunction with MEDVAMC Infection Control, a housekeeper’s checklist for special cleaning of patient rooms was developed in November 2003. In addition, an Environmental Management Service (EMS) inspection checklist was established to assist supervisors in tracking the cleanliness of the MEDVAMC. While housekeeping supervisors conduct regular inspections, unit managers and specialists are required to conduct follow-up inspections, and two environmental and patient safety inspections each week.
  • Housekeeping services are provided daily to all patient rooms, while additional services are provided in cases of emergencies, spills, and accidents. Bed services are provided when patients are discharged. This includes terminal cleaning of the room prior to the next patient being admitted. In an attempt to reduce the downtime of a room, discharges are sent to the EMS through a computer system. Section supervisors are also available via two-way radios if special cleaning situations arise.
  • MEDVAMC has a meticulous restraint policy in place. Restraint alternatives such as bed and chair alarms, floor pads, hip protectors, and low beds are routinely used.
  • A wanderguard system is in place at the MEDVAMC, ensuring high-risk patients are closely monitored.  The system will be upgraded in the near future to include a patient locator system and an increased range of perimeters.
  • MEDVAMC has a very active safety program, managed by 7 fulltime staff members.  MEDVAMC promotes a safe working environment through its injury prevention program. First, with education, staff members seek to eliminate workplace hazards and unsafe practices before they cause accidents.  Second, they investigate accidents to determine corrective actions to prevent further accidents. Supervisors participate in the investigations along with safety staff to determine the facts of the incident as well as appropriate corrective actions.
  • MEDVAMC has an Accident Review Board (ARB) chaired by the facility’s chief nurse executive that promotes a safe environment for employees, patients, and visitors. The ARB reviews, analyzes, and conducts investigations of all lost-time injuries and illnesses. The ARB determines root causes, ensures that recommended corrective actions preclude recurrences, and monitors implementation of corrective actions to ensure their effectiveness.
  • Staff members in patient care areas at the MEDVAMC are trained in how to handle bio-hazardous materials and waste. Waste is transferred in a sanitary manner to large, covered waste containers that are subsequently taken by a contractor for incineration.
  • 2002 - MEDVAMC tested and implemented preventive steps, including a Pre-Operative Briefing Checklist, to ensure patient safety in surgery and improve communication among surgical team members. MEDVAMC has several safeguards and processes to educate and familiarize all health care professionals about the actions that need to be taken to prevent adverse events from happening. With direction and support from MEDVAMC executive leadership, education and training of staff members ongoing and now part of daily routine.
  • January 2005 - MEDVAMC completed a major renovation project upgrading all patient rooms for a more comfortable and home-like environment. This $1.8 million dollar project replaced night stands, over-bed tables, visitor chairs, patient recliners, privacy curtains, draperies, light fixtures, patient education boards, clocks, wallpaper, countertops, and wall decorations, plus it installed ceiling lifts for patients at a cost of $500,000 in all rooms in the long-term care and spinal cord injury units.
  • June 2006 - MEDVAMC installed an emergency evacuation device on its inpatient beds for non-ambulatory patients. Using the “Evacusled,” MEDVAMC staff members can quickly and easily move patients down stairwells, through corridors, and out of the building to safety during a crisis situation.
  • November 2006 - MEDVAMC teamed up with 18 other VA medical facilities for the VA MRSA Prevention Initiative, “Getting to Zero.” The goal of this important health care effort is to improve the safety and quality of life for our nation’s veterans.  MEDVAMC is the only VA in Texas participating at this time.

Staff Collaboration

  • The Graduate Medical Education (GME) Committee, which membership consists of senior management, nursing leadership, residents, VA education leaders, VA residency program coordinators, and directors of selected allied health training programs meets monthly and provides a forum for discussing medical education as well as allied health training, making recommendations to address resident and other learners’ concerns and issues, and sharing information at MEDVAMC.
  • The MEDVAMC conducts on-going resident and medical student orientation sessions.  This training is extremely comprehensive covering topics such as illnesses unique to the veteran population, patient rights and responsibilities, communication skills, conflict resolution, informed consent, supervision and position responsibility, medical record documentation, infection control, computer systems, and information about VA health care.
  • Credentialing at the MEDVAMC is a systematic and continuous process of screening and evaluating the qualifications of all health care providers. This includes primary source verification of all, licensure, certifications, registrations, required education, relevant training and experience, and evaluation of current competence and health status; verifying educational institutions are accredited and degree programs meet required criteria; and searching Department of Health and Human Services Exclusion List to ensure employees have not previously defrauded any government health program.
  • 2004 - Medical Care Line Executive initiated town hall meetings for its residents. These monthly forums allow medical residents and students to bring their concerns and problems directly to senior management officials and subject matter experts such as the pharmacy director, housekeeping manager, and radiology chief.  
  • 2004 - A physician e-mail group was established to ensure that all providers are informed of major clinical changes, meetings, and VA sponsored educational opportunities.
  • 2004 - To solve the problem of health care professionals such as nurses and physicians escorting patients to and from locations, the Clinical Practice Office assigned individual escorts to high demand areas such as the ER, Ambulatory Surgery, and the Medicine Unit floor.
  • November 2005 - MEDVAMC established a Colorectal Cancer Center, the first of its type in the VA, to ensure veterans receive timely evaluation with diagnostic procedures and appropriate, multiple, and innovative treatments and therapies.

Awards, Reviews, and Accreditations

  • September 2002 - MEDVAMC awarded accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations as a result of its demon¬strated compliance with the Joint Commission’s nationally recognized health care standards. MEDVAMC surveyed and received accreditation in the following programs:  hospital, long-term care, behavioral health care, substance abuse, and home care. In addition, JCAHO found no sanitation concerns, patient safety issues, or infection control issues.
  • 2003 - VA Office of Inspector General OIG conducted a Combined Assessment Program review evaluated selected operations, focusing on quality of care, cleanliness, and management controls. Review of MEDVAMC affirmed that this medical center provides high quality health care to veterans. Also significant are the high levels of patient and employee satisfaction that were noted by the CAP review team. 
  • 2003 - MEDVAMC was awarded a three-year Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities accreditation for Rehabilitation Care Line’s Comprehensive Integrated Inpatient Rehabilitation Program in November. In addition, the Spinal Cord Injury program received a three-year CARF accreditation in September, the Health Care for Homeless Veterans program received a three-year CARF accreditation in March, and the Comprehensive Work Therapy program received a three-year CARF accreditation in July 2002.
  • 2003 - The medical knowledge company, Best Doctors, Inc. included 82 physicians who provide patient care at the MEDVAMC in the latest compilation of The Best Doctors in America® database.
  • 2003 - MEDVAMC had two extensive outside reviews of part-time physician timekeeping practices. An April 2003 Inspector General report, as part of the Combined Assessment Program review, found no issues with part-time physicians at MEDVAMC. A November 2003 General Accounting Office review found only one small discrepancy of one non-core hour when reviewing our part-time physician timekeeping practices. MEDVAMC remains vigilant in this area and continues to conduct internal audits as part of our ongoing monitoring processes.
  • December 2003 - Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons granted a three-year approval to the cancer program at the MEDVAMC.
  • December 2003 - MEDVAMC received notice that its Mental Health Care Line placed in the top two percent in 2003 VA-wide inpatient satisfaction scores. 
  • January 2004 - VA National Health Physics Program office inspected the MEDVAMC and found an excellent radiation safety program to oversee the usage of radioactive materials and radiation sources in Nuclear Medicine, Radiology, Radiotherapy, and Research. 
  • February 2004 - MEDVAMC received a special award from the National Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program Executive Committee for having consistently low mortality rates in general surgery, all surgery, and all non-cardiac surgery four years in a row. MEDVAMC is the only VA facility to receive this commendation.
  • June 2004 - Results of a VA Office of Inspector General Report stated the MEDVAMC had an effective Quality Management program to monitor quality of care using national and local performance measures, patient safety records, and utilization reviews. 
  • July 2004 - MEDVAMC was named one of the nation’s “Most Improved,” according to the results of the 2004 Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study.
  • August 2004 – MEDVAMC was awarded a full three-year term of accreditation for its radiation oncology services as the result of a survey by the American College of Radiology. MEDVAMC’s Radiation Oncology Program only program in the state of Texas to receive this accreditation.
  • August 2004 - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation recognized the MEDVAMC as one of Houston's Best Workplaces for Commuters. Second year, the MEDVAMC wins this award. In addition, the Houston-Galveston Area Council also awarded the MEDVAMC the Best Van Pool Company Award and the Outstanding Leadership Award.
  • August 2004 - American Nurses Credentialing Center, the nation's leading nursing credentialing organization, awarded its Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services to the MEDVAMC. MEDVAMC only the second VA medical center in the nation to achieve this recognition, and joins fellow Texas Medical Center facilities with Magnet status, The Methodist Hospital, St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, Texas Children's Hospital, and The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Magnet is the highest honor a health care organization can receive for nursing services. The Magnet program was developed to recognize health care organizations that provide the best in quality patient care and uphold excellence in professional nursing practice.
  • September 2004 - H Texas magazine included 34 MEDVAMC physicians on their list of best doctors in Houston. This annual special section is devoted to the best heath care providers serving the greater Houston metropolitan area.
  • September 2004 - MEDVAMC was awarded the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert W. Carey Organizational Excellence Achievement Award. The Carey Achievement Award is presented to organizations demonstrating effective, systematic approaches to management and producing positive trends and performance levels in key areas of importance.
  • October 2004 - MEDVAMC was awarded a three-year accreditation for its echocardiography laboratory in the areas of transthoracic echocardiography, transesophageal echocardiography, and stress echocardiography as the result of a survey by the Intersocietal Commission for Accreditation of Echocardiography Laboratories. MEDVAMC only VA with accreditation in all three modalities of echocardiography.
  • December 2004 - MEDVAMC Health Call Center, known as the VA Network Telecare Center, was awarded Health Call Center Accreditation from URAC, a Washington, D.C.-based health care accrediting organization that establishes quality standards for the health care industry. MEDVAMC provides 24/7 telephone nurse triage for the 10 VAMCs in the south-central U.S., fielding more than 28,000 calls per month.
  • December 2004 - MEDVAMC medical laboratory was awarded re-accreditation by the Commission on Laboratory Accreditation of the College of American Pathologists (CAP), based on the results of an on-site inspection.
  • February 2005 - MEDVAMC received praise from the Department of Veterans Affairs Continuous Improvement in Cardiac Surgery Program (CICSP) for its remarkable mortality rate of zero percent for coronary artery bypass surgeries in the last six months. In addition, the MEDVAMC was commended for demonstrating consistently low mortality rates in its Cardiac Surgery Section.
  • February 2005 – MEDVAMC received special recognition from the National Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program Executive Committee for demonstrating consistently low observed-to-expected mortality rates in general surgery, all surgery, and all non-cardiac surgery five years in a row. The MEDVAMC is the only VA facility to receive this commendation. 
  • April 2005 - American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics approved the MEDVAMC Orthotics and Prosthetics Center for another three-year accreditation. MEDVAMC was congratulated for "scoring a perfect 100."
  • May 2005 - Baylor College of Medicine honored eight physicians from the MEDVAMC for excellence in educational leadership in a ceremony held at the college. 
  • July 2005 - MEDVAMC was named one of the nation’s “Most Wired Hospital” the second year in a row, according to the results of the 2005 Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study.
  • July 2005 - According to a 2005 Quality Check report from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the health care the MEDVAMC provides in three critical medical areas ranks among the very best nationwide. The report found MEDVAMC performance in caring for patients with heart attacks, heart failure, and pneumonia was above most nationwide and statewide Joint Commission-accredited organizations.
  • August 2005 - The MEDVAMC Coronary Care Unit was awarded the COMET award by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses - Houston Gulf Coast Chapter. The COMET award recognizes intensive care units that attain high quality care, provide excellent care to patients, and demonstrate a healthy workplace for nurses.
  • August 2005 - The medical knowledge company, Best Doctors, Inc. included 80 physicians who provide patient care at the MEDVAMC in the latest compilation of The Best Doctors in America® database.
  • September 2005 - VA selected the MEDVAMC as the 2005 recipient of the Robert W. Carey Organizational Excellence Award -- the department's top award for quality achievement. Based on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria, the award recognizes the MEDVAMC’s commitment to the veterans it serves and to the community, as well as performance improvement efforts made by the medical center and its satellite clinics.
  • October 2005 - On October 3, 2005 by unanimous consent, the Senate adopted a resolution of praise for employees of VA for their heroic efforts following Hurricane Katrina.  A portion of text of the resolution (S. Res. 263) follows:  “Whereas patients and employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Texas provided extraordinary support and medical assistance to veterans, staff, and families affected by Hurricane Katrina and coordinated numerous medical efforts as part of the overall Federal Government response and recovery efforts in the Gulf Region; and whereas heroic actions and efforts on the part of numerous employees and volunteers of the Department of Veterans Affairs saved countless lives and provided immeasurable comfort to the victims of Hurricane Katrina:  Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Senate commends the employees and volunteers of the Department of Veterans Affairs, who risked life and limb to assist veterans, staff, and their respective families who were affected by Hurricane Katrina.”
  • October 2005 - MEDVAMC was designated one of the Best Workplaces for CommutersSM by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). In August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation once again recognized the MEDVAMC as one of Houston's Best Workplaces for Commuters. This is the third year the MEDVAMC has won this award. For the second year in a row, the Houston-Galveston Area Council also presented the MEDVAMC the Best Van Pool Company Award.
  • December 2005 - MEDVAMC was awarded three-year Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities accreditations for its Mental Health Care Line’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Programs.
  • January 2006 - The National Committee for Quality Assurance awarded a three-year accreditation to the Human Research Protection Program at the MEDVAMC. 
  • April 2006 - MEDVAMC received notification from the National Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) Executive Committee that it has demonstrated consistently low observed-to-expected mortality rates in general surgery, all surgery, and all non-cardiac surgery six years in a row. The MEDVAMC is the only VA facility with this record. 
  • April 2006 - For more than 50 years, MEDVAMC has provided clinical training for health care professionals through its major affiliate, Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). BCM was ranked 10th among the 125 U.S. medical schools in an annual survey published by U.S. News & World Report, moving up three positions from its 13th ranking last year.
  • May 2006 - Baylor College of Medicine honored four physicians from the MEDVAMC for excellence in educational leadership in a ceremony held at the college. 
  • July 2006 – VA’s model system of electronic health records, developed with extensive involvement of front-line health-care providers, won the prestigious “Innovations in American Government Award.” The annual award, sponsored by Harvard University’s Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Kennedy School of Government and administered in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government, honors excellence and creativity in the public sector.
  • August 2006 - The American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists selected the MEDVAMC Pharmacy Section for its Executive Vice President’s Award for Courageous Service in recognition of activities during and after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005.
  • September 2006 - The medical knowledge company, Best Doctors, Inc. included 80 physicians who provide patient care at the MEDVAMC in the latest compilation of The Best Doctors in America® database.
  • September 2006 - The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) granted a six-year accreditation to the Pharmacy Practice Residency Program at the MEDVAMC.
  • September 2006 – MEDVAMC awarded a three-year CARF accreditation for its Rehabilitation Care Line’s Comprehensive Integrated Inpatient Rehabilitation Program (CIIRP) and Spinal Cord Injury Care Line.
  • January 2007 - MEDVAMC received praise from the VA Continuous Improvement in Cardiac Surgery Program (CICSP) for decreasing its already exceptionally low cardiac surgery mortality rate despite increased patient load caused by the 2005 hurricanes.
  • January 2007 – MEDVAMC received recognition from the Department of Veterans Affairs Inpatient Evaluation Center (IPEC) for having a significantly low standardized mortality rate (SMR) in its Surgical Intensive Care unit for fiscal years 2005 and 2006.
  • February 2007 - MEDVAMC medical laboratory was awarded re-accreditation by the Commission on Laboratory Accreditation of the College of American Pathologists (CAP), based on the results of an on-site inspection.
  • June 2007 - The National Cancer Institute awarded Baylor College of Medicine official designation as a cancer center, a recognition that brings increased funding and prestige. There are 63 such centers in the nation, but only three in Texas. As a key affiliate of Baylor, the MEDVAMC will play a major role in future cancer research and treatment.
  • June 2007 - The Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons granted a three-year approval award with commendation to the cancer program at the MEDVAMC.
  • June 2007 - VA announced it had renewed funding for the Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies (HCQCUS), a VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Center of Excellence, for another five years.
  • October 2007 - The VA Secretary selected the MEDVAMC to receive this year's Robert W. Carey Circle of Excellence Quality Award - the VA top award for quality achievement.
  • December 2007 - The medical knowledge company, Best Doctors, Inc. included 73 physicians who provide patient care at the MEDVAMC in the latest compilation of The Best Doctors in America® database. This includes 27 staff physicians and 46 consultants and attending physicians.

Medical & Research Advances

  • July 2002 - MEDVAMC physicians tested an innovative gene therapy designed to grow new blood vessels in the hearts of patients with blocked coronary arteries. The VA doctors were part of an international team of heart specialists testing the new therapy in about 600 patients at more than 50 sites.
  • 2003 - MEDVAMC vascular surgeons began treating patients with a new, minimally invasive Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm procedure, called “endovascular stent grafting.”  In an effort to evaluate the best treatment options for patients with life-threatening aneurysms involving the thoracic (chest) aorta, the body's largest artery, MEDVAMC in conjunction with Baylor College of Medicine and the Methodist Hospital participated in an FDA-approved clinical trial of a thoracic stent graft system. Trial was limited to 35 sites across the country and MEDVAMC is the only participating VA facility. MEDVAMC doctors also performed a new procedure to prevent strokes. This technique involves the application of balloon angioplasty and stenting of the neck artery, also known as the carotid artery. MEDVAMC was among first hospitals in the country to use cryoplasty to open clogged leg arteries and improve blood flow to the lower extremities.
  • 2003 - MEDVAMC was one of only 30 sites in North America, and the only one in Texas, to implant a cardiac support device (like a net) around the hearts of patients with congestive heart failure. The objective of the cardiac support device is to support the lower chambers of the heart in a way that effectively reduces the muscle stretch and wall stress resulting from the heart enlarging. MEDVAMC physicians hope this cardiac support device might halt the progressive enlargement of the heart, improve its function, and encourage a reduction in size.
  • 2004 - MEDVAMC was selected as one of nine VA medical facilities in the United States to participate in a cooperative study examining radial artery versus saphenous vein grafts in coronary artery bypass grafting.
  • October 2004 - MEDVAMC completed recruitment for the VA Cooperative Study, “A Comparison of Best Medical Therapy and Deep Brain Stimulation of Subthalamic Nucleus and Globus Pallidus for the Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease.” The Houston Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Center is leading this multi-VA medical center study. MEDVAMC researchers believe the electrical signals may relieve Parkinson’s disease symptoms by blocking incorrect messages processed by the brain in areas that control movement.
  • December 2004 - For the first time, scientists examined the complex causes of acute illness affecting the stomach and intestinal tract and identified the most effective prevention methods. Most intriguing, the research finds no apparent benefit from the popular and commonly used antibacterial soaps. The study, conducted in part by a MEDVAMC physician, appears in the Dec. 2 New England Journal of Medicine.
  • December 2004 - Two preliminary clinical trials lead by a MEDVAMC physician surprisingly indicated that introducing certain types of bacteria into the bladder could actually prevent catheter-related urinary tract infection. Prompted by this initial success, VA investigators conduct a National Institutes of Health-sponsored multi-center clinical trial to confirm the effectiveness and safety of this approach in patients with spinal cord injury.
  • January 2005 – MEDVAMC researchers published a study in the American Gastroenterological Association journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, establishing that chronic users of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have an increased risk of bleeding and visible damage to their small intestine. 
  • May 2005 - MEDVAMC established a Stroke Center to ensure veterans receive timely evaluation with diagnostic procedures and appropriate therapies based on guidelines established by the Stroke Council of the American Heart Association.  The vital link in the operations is the Acute Stroke Team, comprised of neurology residents and staff, a neurology nurse practitioner, emergency room physicians and nurses, radiologist and technicians, laboratory technicians, and medical consultants from neuroradiology, vascular surgery, cardiology and internal medicine.
  • January 2006 - MEDVAMC is among the first VA hospitals in the country to close a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) using a catheter-based procedure.
  • April 2006 - MEDVAMC is one of the few medical facilities in the country performing minimally invasive heart valve surgery. In this new procedure, surgery is performed with a limited split of the sternum through a small three inch incision providing a small but adequate access to the heart valves.
  • November 2006 - MEDVAMC began offering Balloon Kyphoplasty, a minimally invasive treatment option for patients suffering from spinal fractures due to osteoporosis.
  • January 2007 - MEDVAMC is the first VA hospital to perform laparoscopic Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation to treat a primary liver tumor (hepatocellular carcinoma).
  • May 2007 - MEDVAMC is the first hospital in Texas Medical Center and among the first VA hospitals in the country to use an innovative, catheter-based technology based on color to assess and treat coronary artery disease.
  • June 2007 - Researchers at the MEDVAMC have found medical treatment for stroke seems overall to be just as effective as more invasive procedures using intra-arterial catheters. The review appeared in the June 12, 2007 issue of Neurology.

Technological Advances

  • The Computerized Patient Record System in place at the MEDVAMC allows offers health care providers a complete electronic record covering all aspects of patient care, including reminders for preventive health care, electronic entry of pharmaceutical orders, display of laboratory results, consultation requests, x-rays, and pathology slides. The importance of this system was demonstrated after Hurricane Katrina. Medical information for every New Orleans VA patient was available at any VA medical center and by any VA physician nationwide in a matter of three days.
  • 2001 - VHA introduced the Bar Code Medication Administration process. Administering medications, a significant component of delivering quality care, is a complex process, and previously, primarily paper-based. A breakdown at any step along the way could compromise patient safety. The BCMA process consists of using a scanner, very similar to the device we see in supermarkets, to scan a patient’s hospital identification band, and then scan the medications the patient is supposed to receive. This allows a nurse or other health care provider to make sure that a veteran is receiving the correct medication in the correct dose at the correct time.
  • 2003 - MEDVAMC spent approximately $8.86 million dollars to purchase or replace equipment in the facility. The total value of all facility equipment is more than $47 million.
  • 2004 - Both Lufkin and Beaumont VA Outpatient Clinics installed new machines to enable their laboratories to perform several types of blood tests in-house. This now means same day results for veterans and health care providers at the clinics.
  • 2004 - MEDVAMC completed installation of Automated External Defibrillators throughout the hospital and its outpatient clinics in Beaumont and Lufkin. This made MEDVAMC one of the first hospitals in the city of Houston to have such a program in place in compliance with recommendations of the American Heart Association and the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation.
  • 2004 - Both Lufkin and Beaumont VA Outpatient Clinics installed ScriptPro 200 Robotic Prescription Dispensing Systems to perform the time consuming and tedious tasks of counting, filling, and labeling prescriptions, allowing staff to spend more time with customers. The "200" in the name indicates the system is designed to dispense the 200 medications "most-filled" in the clinics’ pharmacies.
  • 2004 - MEDVAMC installed robotic helpmates and was the only hospital in the Houston area to have these machines. These robotic couriers, or helpmates, transport medications and supplies from the pharmacy to various nursing units within the hospital, decreasing the time-consuming errands nurses now run.
  • 2004 - MEDVAMC installed the Picture Archiving and Communications System and now has a filmless radiology department.
  • August 2004 - MEDVAMC opened a new state-of-the-art cardiac intervention laboratory in response to the growing number of veterans needing specialized cardiac care. The new lab incorporated a technologically advanced x-ray system for capturing and viewing detailed images of a patient’s coronary structure. MEDVAMC physicians are now able to use this equipment to see and work inside and near the heart and in other major arteries, making diagnoses, opening blocked vessels, and dissolving or fragmenting blood clots. A key component of the new lab is flat detector technology, offering sharper, more detailed x-ray images. This equipment speeds diagnoses, reduces radiation dose, and provides faster imaging times. It is fully digital and plays an important role in offering heart patients a safe and effective alternative to surgery.  The new x-ray system works along side an innovative image storage system, which allows for rapid retrieval and viewing of previous cardiac catheterization results from key areas in the hospital such as the Cardiac Care Unit and the Surgical Intensive Care Unit.  These images can also be exchanged via special Intranet connections with other VA medical facilities providing opportunities for consultation at a distance.
  • October 2004 - MEDVAMC installed ceiling-mounted patient lifts for 40 beds on its Spinal Cord Injury Unit and 127 beds on its Transitional Care Center. In addition, one was installed to assist in the Urodynamic Lab.
  • 2005 - In the Chemistry, Hematology, and Immunology Labs, new automated, state-of-the art power processor robotics saved numerous man hours, providing results 30 - 45 minutes faster, and ensuring more accurate readings for patient treatment. This system also improved safety for both employees and veterans. All vials are bar-coded and read numerous times during the processing cycle.  
  • 2005 - Serving more than 1,000 blind veterans in southeast Texas, the MEDVAMC Visual Impairment Service Team hired a new outpatient rehabilitation specialist who has locally trained approximately 175 legally blind veterans. This training includes the innovative ScripTalk™ prescription reader, the state-of-the-art I.D. Mate™ device, and the advanced SARA™ (Scanning and Reading Appliance) device to read print aloud.
  • May 2005 – MEDVAMC first VA hospital to use FDA-approved endovascular device to treat thoracic aorta aneurysms.
  • July 2005 - MEDVAMC, in collaboration with the Anesthesiology Department of Baylor College of Medicine, is the only VA facility in Texas to offer hands-on learning experience and true-to-life scenario training to its anesthesia residents, interns, student registered nurse anesthetists, and medical students using a high fidelity computer-model-driven, full-sized mannequin called the Human Patient Simulator.
  • August 2005 - Veteran inpatients at the MEDVAMC are now able to talk with their nurses anywhere, anytime simply by using a newly installed and enhanced nurse call system. As part of this enhanced nurse call system to increase patient safety and satisfaction, nurses are equipped with mobile telephones.  The new system is being piloted on the Spinal Cord Injury Unit where inpatients are most dependent. 
  • October 2005 - Veterans receiving their health care at the MEDVAMC or any one of its outpatient clinics may now order prescription refills and check the status of prescription refills on the Internet at their convenience.
  • November 2005 - MEDVAMC among the first VA hospitals in the country to use Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation (RFA) to treat liver cancer and tumors.
  • November 2005 - MEDVAMC first VA hospital to implant a cutting-edge, FDA-approved wireless pressure sensor to monitor aortic aneurysm pressure in patients undergoing endovascular aortic aneurysm repair.
  • August 2006 - MEDVAMC became the first VA medical center to fit a patient with the Proprio “Bionic” FootTM, just weeks after Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. This technologically advanced prosthesis thinks for itself, responding automatically to changing terrain, stairs, slopes, and level-ground walking as needed.
  • September 2006 - MEDVAMC is the first VA medical center in the country to use Intracardiac Echocardiography (ICE) to diagnose and treat veterans needing specialized cardiac care.
  • October 2006 - Unique prosthetic stubby swim legs, made by the MEDVAMC Prosthetics Section, allowed a veteran to regain his sense of independence and freedom, while enjoying a hobby he thought he lost.  “Swim Stubbies” have rarely been made; however, a pair was fabricated by the MEDVAMC to fit this veteran’s specific needs and abilities.
  • January 2007 - A new, state-of-the-art hybrid surgical suite opened at the MEDVAMC. This new operating room combines endovascular, cardiac catheterization, cardiac surgical, laparoscopic, and radiological capabilities, allowing maximum flexibility and speed in the treatment of patients with even the most complex cardiac and vascular conditions.
  • February 2007 - MEDVAMC is the first hospital in Houston and among the first VA hospitals in the country to use an innovative, minimally invasive, video-assisted surgical technique to treat atrial fibrillation.
  • February 2007 - MEDVAMC initiated clinical use of a surgical robotic system to perform minimally invasive urological operations, including the removal of cancerous prostate glands.
  • April 2007 - As part of its fight against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), MEDVAMC is the first hospital in Texas and in the Department of Veterans Affairs to install a computerized system able to integrate all the steps required for surveillance MRSA testing: sample preparation, amplification, and detection. 
  • May 2007 - At the MEDVAMC, patients too ill to survive heart surgery can now be treated with a new device designed for those with the sickest of hearts. The TandemHeart® is a small, left ventricular assist device (LVAD) for patients with extremely poor heart function.
  • October 2007 - Always at the forefront of innovative treatments and technologies, the MEDVAMC recently purchased the CyberKnife®, a robotic radiosurgery system, providing veterans a targeted, painless alternative to open surgery and a medical option for certain tumors that are inoperable.
  • November 2007 – MEDVAMC now offers its patients a powerful new diagnostic imaging system known as PET/CT. This hybrid technology combines the strengths of two well-established imaging modalities in one imaging session to more accurately diagnose and locate cancers while increasing patient comfort.
  • November 2007 - MEDVAMC now offers a hands-on learning experience and true-to-life scenario training to its ophthalmology residents and fellows using a highly sophisticated simulator for intraocular surgical training.