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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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

July 17, 2009

Houston Awards

Fact Sheet:
General Information

  MEDVAMC employs more than 3,600 people. The facility has 375 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 1,970 students are trained through 144 affiliation agreements with institutions of higher learning in 19 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. 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.
  MEDVAMC, in cooperation with The Task Force for Houston Area Homeless Veterans, The Coalition for the Homeless and U.S. Veterans Initiative, held the 6th Houston Area Stand Down for homeless Veterans.
1999 Activated in 1977, the Beaumont VA Outpatient Clinic 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.
Nov 2004 MEDVAMC’s VA Outpatient Clinic in Lufkin, activated in 1991, officially renamed under Public Law 108-422 (S. 424) in honor of former U.S. Representative Charles Wilson. Renaming ceremony held on July 7, 2005. On December 7, 2007, the MEDVAMC held a Groundbreaking Event for a new clinic to be located at 2206 North John Redditt Drive.
Mar 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.
Apr 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.
Aug 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.
Aug 2005 As the country realized the devastation Hurricane Katrina inflicted along the Gulf Coast, the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) activated. In Houston, this meant area hospitals geared up to receive patients from the hurricane-affected areas under the coordination of the MEDVAMC. That day, the MEDVAMC moved 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, suffered 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.
Sep 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.
Dec 2005 MEDVAMC opened 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.
Aug 2006 MEDVAMC officially designated as a Liver Transplant Center from the VA.
Oct 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.
Feb 2007 MEDVAMC held a ribbon cutting ceremony on February 26, 2007 opening a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Conroe.
Jun 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.
Mar 2008 MEDVAMC converted Bldg. 120 to a new, 2,900 square foot home for the Visual Impairment Service Team, Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist program, and new Visual Impairment Services Outpatient Rehabilitation (VISOR) program.
Apr 2008 Approximately $12.3 million was approved by the VA South Central VA Health Care Network for health care improvements at the MEDVAMC. These additional funds will be used to expand specialty care at its outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, and Lufkin; add 20 inpatient beds to its Mental Health Care Line; boost dental services; increase space for radiotherapy technology; and support several smaller projects.
Jun 2008 MEDVAMC opened a 40-bed domiciliary residence for homeless Veterans on June 30, 2008. The new facility, located at 7329 Fannin Street, features 14 apartments with kitchenettes and a 40-person dining facility.
Mar 2009 MEDVAMC held a special Ribbon Cutting Ceremony officially re-opening its VA Outpatient Clinic on Galveston Island. The building was destroyed by Hurricane Ike in September 2008.
Jun 2009 MEDVAMC awarded a five-year $5 million grant from the VA Office of Research and Development to establish a new VA Rehabilitation Research Center of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury.


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 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 includes pressure-reducing mattresses, special boots to protect the heels and feet, turning schedules as well as out-of-bed schedules, and skin care treatment plans 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.
Jan 2005 New telemetry system installed allowing staff members to monitor inpatients for vital signs and arrhythmias when they are located virtually in any bed in the facility.
Jan 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.
Mar 2006 MEDVAMC opened a fifth Primary Care Clinic inside its main hospital building in Houston.
Mar 2006 The complete restructuring of all Urology clinics more than doubled the number of appointments slots each month, from 776 to over 1,700. The clinic’s hours expanded to five days a week, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic’s no-show/cancellation rate dropped from 28 percent to 16 percent since the change. Most importantly, appointments 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.
Feb 2007 Houston became one of 30 communities where the VA takes its substance abuse services directly to the area’s homeless. Under its Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, the MEDVAMC received special funding to hire an addiction therapist who will work directly in homeless shelters, counseling Veterans with substance abuse problems.
Apr 2007 Veterans with diabetes in southeast Texas receive 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.
Apr 2007 The 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).
Aug 2007 The MEDVAMC hosted the 21st National Veterans Golden Age Games in Houston. More than 625 Veterans over the age of 55, from all over the country, participated in the Games.
Nov 2007 As part of the treatment course for stroke victims, Medical Care Line and the Neurology Care Line at the MEDVAMC established a Neuro-Medical Stepdown Unit.
Dec 2007 A 63 year-old, U.S. Navy Veteran from Webster, Tx. became first patient to undergo orthotopic liver transplantation at the MEDVAMC. The surgery on November 30 represented a milestone locally in the field of organ transplantation and provides end-stage liver disease Veterans with state-of-the-art care.
Sep 2008 By focusing on ways to improve operating room efficiency and providing additional support services, the wait time for Total Knee Arthoplasty (TKA) surgery has decreased by 92 percent.
Sep 2008 On the eve of Hurricane Ike, MEDVAMC performed an orthotopic liver transplantation on a 59 year-old, U.S. Army Veteran from Missouri. Physicians believed they could not deny a Veteran the chance for a potential life-saving procedure.
Mar 2009 A Rapid Response Team was put into action for inpatients at the MEDVAMC. The team includes a Medical/Neuro Step-Down nurse practioner, a respiratory therapist, and a physician, usually the pulmonary fellow or the in-house resident after regular business hours. Any health care provider who is worried about his or her patient has the ability to call the Rapid Response Team at the first sign of a patient decline.  Within minutes, a team of professionals rush to the patient’s bedside in an attempt to reverse the patient’s instability.
Mar 2009 Dermatologists at the MEDVAMC have a wide variety of treatments, valuable information, and technology at their fingertips to keep veterans from developing skin cancer and treat those who are suffering from the disease.


Patient & Environmental Safety and Well-Being

  MEDVAMC is in full compliance with all Joint Commission 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 developed in November 2003. In addition, an Environmental Management Service (EMS) inspection checklist 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 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 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.
May 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 is ongoing and now part of daily routine.
Jan 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.
Jun 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.
Aug 2008 Since the introduction of the VA’s Patient Restraint Policy, the MEDVAMC has made significant progress in minimizing the use of patient restraints by its staff. The culture change of the entire clinical team has made the difference in reducing restraint usage by more than 75%.


Staff Collaboration

  The Graduate Medical Education 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.
Nov 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.
Jun 2008 MEDVAMC formed two new nursing governance councils to ensure its patients continue to receive only the highest quality nursing care and to have access to the latest in nursing innovations and technology. On each of these committees, Veterans play key roles and offer valuable insight.
Nov 2008 The MEDVAMC began collaborating with the Robertson Blood Center, a U.S. Army Blood Bank based at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Ft. Hood, Texas to save taxpayer money and maximize the use of a valuable and perishable resource.


Awards, Reviews, and Accreditations

Sep 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 MEDVAMC provides high quality health care to Veterans. Also significant are the high levels of patient and employee satisfaction noted by the CAP review team.
2003 MEDVAMC 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.
Dec 2003 Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons granted a three-year approval to the cancer program at the MEDVAMC.
Dec 2003 MEDVAMC received notice the Mental Health Care Line placed in the top two percent in 2003 VA-wide inpatient satisfaction scores.
Jan 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.
Feb 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 was only VA facility to receive this commendation.
Jun 2004 Results of a VA Office of Inspector General Report stated MEDVAMC had an effective Quality Management program to monitor quality of care using national and local performance measures, patient safety records, and utilization reviews.
Jul 2004 MEDVAMC named one of the nation’s “Most Improved,” according to the results of the 2004 Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study.
Aug 2004 MEDVAMC 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.
Aug 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 MEDVAMC wins this award. In addition, the Houston-Galveston Area Council awarded the MEDVAMC the Best Van Pool Company Award and the Outstanding Leadership Award.
Aug 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.
Sep 2004 MEDVAMC 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.
Oct 2004 MEDVAMC 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.
Dec 2004 MEDVAMC Health Call Center, known as the VA Network Telecare Center, 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.
Dec 2004 MEDVAMC medical laboratory awarded re-accreditation by the Commission on Laboratory Accreditation of the College of American Pathologists, based on results of an on-site inspection.
Feb 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 commended for demonstrating consistently low mortality rates in its Cardiac Surgery Section.
Feb 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 was only VA facility to receive this commendation.
Apr 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."
Jul 2005 MEDVAMC 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.
Jul 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.
Aug 2005 The MEDVAMC Coronary Care Unit 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.
Aug 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.
Sep 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.
Oct 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.”
Oct 2005 MEDVAMC 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 recognized the MEDVAMC as one of Houston's Best Workplaces for Commuters. This is the third year the MEDVAMC won this award. For the second year in a row, the Houston-Galveston Area Council presented the MEDVAMC the Best Van Pool Company Award.
Dec 2005 MEDVAMC 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.
Jan 2006 The National Committee for Quality Assurance awarded a three-year accreditation to the Human Research Protection Program at the MEDVAMC.
Apr 2006 MEDVAMC received notification from the National Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) Executive Committee that it 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 was only VA facility with this record.
Apr 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 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.
Jul 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.
Aug 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.
Sep 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.
Sep 2006 The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) granted a six-year accreditation to the Pharmacy Practice Residency Program at the MEDVAMC.
Sep 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.
Jan 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.
Jan 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.
Feb 2007 MEDVAMC medical laboratory 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.
Jun 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.
Jun 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.
Jun 2007 VA announced it 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.
Oct 2007 The VA Secretary selected the MEDVAMC to receive the Robert W. Carey Circle of Excellence Quality Award - the VA top award for quality achievement.
Dec 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.
Feb 2008 Dietetic internship program at MEDVAMC granted re-accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education, based on the results of a recent on-site inspection.
Feb 2008 MEDVAMC again awarded a full three-year term of accreditation for its radiation oncology services as the result of a recent survey by the American College of Radiology, only program in the state of Texas to receive this accreditation.
Jun 2008 MEDVAMC achieved re-accreditation from The Joint Commission as a result of its demon¬strated compliance with the organization’s nationally recognized health care standards. The Joint Commission’s on-site survey of the MEDVAMC and its outpatient clinics occurred April 7 – 11, 2008.
Jul 2008 MEDVAMC featured in an educational video produced by The Joint Commission, the nation’s predominant standards-setting and accrediting health care organization. The film focuses on the MEDVAMC’s top-to-bottom emphasis on preventing the spread of infections, particularly MRSA.
Oct 2008 MEDVAMC earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s prestigious ENERGY STAR, the national symbol for superior energy efficiency and environmental protection, becoming only one of two hospitals in Houston with this designation.
Nov 2008 The laboratory at the MEDVAMC awarded accreditation by the Commission on Laboratory Accreditation of the College of American Pathologists, based on the result of an on-site inspection.
Dec 2008 The medical knowledge company, Best Doctors, Inc. included 66 physicians who provide patient care at the MEDVAMC in the latest compilation of The Best Doctors in America® database. This includes 28 staff physicians and 38 consultants and attending physicians.
Dec 2008 The MEDVAMC awarded a three-year certification by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities for its Health Care for Homeless Veterans and Vocational Rehabilitation programs.
Dec 2008 The Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc. (AAHRPP) had awarded full accreditation to the MEDVAMC.
Jan 2009 The American Nurses Credentialing Center, the nation's leading nursing credentialing organization, again granted its Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services to the MEDVAMC. The MEDVAMC is only the second VA medical center in the nation to achieve this recognition, and remains in the group of 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.
Feb 2009 MEDVAMC again recognized for demonstrating consistently low observed-to-expected mortality rates in general surgery, all surgery, and all non-cardiac surgery.
Mar 2009 VA National Center for Patient Safety recently awarded the Root Cause Analysis Bronze Cornerstone Recognition Award to the MEDVAMC for completion of all root cause analyses within 45 days during fiscal year 2008.


Medical & Research Advances

Jul 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 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.
Oct 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.
Dec 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.
Dec 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.
Jan 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
Jan 2006 MEDVAMC among the first VA hospitals in the country to close a Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) using a catheter-based procedure.
Apr 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.
Nov 2006 MEDVAMC began offering Balloon Kyphoplasty, a minimally invasive treatment option for patients suffering from spinal fractures due to osteoporosis.
Jan 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.
Jun 2007 Researchers at the MEDVAMC 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.
Jan 2008 MEDVAMC performs complex surgery for intractable epilepsy.
Jan 2008 Health care providers at MEDVAMC use Botox®, a therapeutic botulinum toxin, an ultra purified neurotoxin, to treat severe muscle spasms.
Jul 2008 MEDVAMC staff physician is one of the inventors of an innovative antibacterial envelope for surgical implants.
Nov 2008 A cardiovascular team at the MEDVAMC used their expertise, teamwork, and the latest cutting-edge technology to repair an ascending aortic pseudo-aneurysm, a rare, life-threatening medical condition.
Mar 2009 With a two-year, nearly $4.5 million contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a consortium of researchers led by the MEDVAMC and its major affiliate Baylor College of Medicine is tackling a project to create and develop “fracture putty,” a new material that speeds the healing of bone in severe fractures.
May 2009 MEDVAMC researchers have addressed the potential impact of research on the comparative effectiveness of drugs, medical devices, surgical procedures, and other treatments for various conditions in a major medical journal. Though controversial, the broad consensus is that although the amount of funding the federal government provides for research is already large, the translation of this investment into practice, enabling new laboratory discoveries to reach patients' bedsides, is frustratingly slow.
Apr 2009 MEDVAMC surgeons now use a micro-invasive alternative, percutaneous endovascular surgery, for the repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms.


Technological Advances

The Computerized Patient Record System in place at the MEDVAMC 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.
Aug 2004 MEDVAMC opened a new state-of-the-art cardiac intervention laboratory. 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 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.
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.
Jul 2005 MEDVAMC, in collaboration with the Anesthesiology Department of Baylor College of Medicine, 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.
Aug 2005 Veteran inpatients at the MEDVAMC 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.
Oct 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.
Nov 2005 MEDVAMC among the first VA hospitals in the country to use Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation (RFA) to treat liver cancer and tumors.
Nov 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.
Aug 2006 MEDVAMC 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.
Sep 2006 MEDVAMC first VA medical center in the country to use Intracardiac Echocardiography (ICE) to diagnose and treat Veterans needing specialized cardiac care.
Oct 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.
Jan 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.
Feb 2007 MEDVAMC 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.
Feb 2007 MEDVAMC initiated clinical use of a surgical robotic system to perform minimally invasive urological operations, including the removal of cancerous prostate glands.
Apr 2007 As part of its fight against Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), MEDVAMC is the first hospital in Texas and in the VA 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 for patients with extremely poor heart function.
Oct 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.
Nov 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.
Nov 2007 MEDVAMC now offers a hands-on learning experience and true-to-life scenario training to its ophthalmology residents using a highly sophisticated simulator for intraocular surgical training.
Nov 2007 MEDVAMC began clinical use of the latest technology in computed tomography (CT) imaging software and machinery, a 64-slice CT scanner.
May 2008 MEDVAMC incorporated a popular video game system, the Nintendo® Wii™, into its traditional physical rehabilitation program. This new tactic helps in masking the often painful and tedious rehabilitation process and increases a patient's motivation and enthusiasm to continue therapy.
Jun 2008 Dentists at the MEDVAMC are restoring teeth and giving Veterans new smiles in a single sitting thanks to the latest in computer-design technology. With computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technology, combining advanced software and milling units, MEDVAMC dentists are able to prepare, fit, and permanently cement a dental crown for a patient in a single appointment.
Nov 2008 The MEDVAMC’s latest breakthrough for Veterans with visual disturbance caused by traumatic brain injury is the use of specialized prism eyeglasses to retrain the brain to treat hemispatial neglect.
Mar 2009 Veterans with chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart failure can now be monitored at home using special telehealth technologies provided to them by the MEDVAMC.
Apr 2009 One of the first VA hospitals to take advantage of new microwave technology, MEDVAMC physicians now use the Evident™ microwave ablation system, a powerful new tool with industry-leading microwave technology to ablate soft tissue and effectively treat liver cancer and tumors.
Jul 2009 MEDVAMC initiated clinical use of a surgical robotic system to perform minimally invasive gynecological operations, including minimally invasive hysterectomies.