Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Wait Time Success Story: Urology Section Turnaround

May 2, 2006

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The changes made in the Urology Section have "resulted in improved coordination of care in addition to increased satisfaction of our veterans and referring providers," said Donald Griffith, M.D., chief, MEDVAMC Urology Section. Above, Zaneta Romain, M.D., urology resident and Griffith answer veteran Felton Edward, Jr.'s questions about an upcoming procedure.

PHOTO BY: Bobbi Gruner, MEDVAMC Public Affairs Officer

 

HOUSTON - Decreasing the amount of time veterans wait for health care appointments remains a high priority for administrators at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC). Solutions to this complex problem range from reallocation of resources, hiring additional staff, improving processes, and opening new clinics, while providing special attention to service-connected veterans and veterans recently returned from conflicts overseas.

MEDVAMC administrators continuously analyze staffing, resources, and processes in individual clinics and have appointed a full time employee to concentrate on problem areas.  One area where significant progress has been made is the MEDVAMC Urology Section.

Urology is a surgical specialty that covers the male and female urinary tract including the bladder, the kidneys, the prostate, and the urethra. The clinicians in the Urology Section perform a full range of urology surgeries involving the kidney, the bladder, the urinary stone, and the prostate (both benign and malignant) and conduct a variety of laboratory procedures including cystoscopy, transrectal ultrasounds, biopsy, catheterizations, bladder irrigation, and other genitourinary procedures. 

In the past, patients routinely complained about long wait times. In late 2004, the MEDVAMC hired a new Urology chief and completely restructured all Urology clinics.

“Urology health care providers are now responsible for specific groups of Urology patients. This has resulted in improved coordination of care in addition to increased satisfaction of our veterans and referring providers,” said Donald Griffith, M.D., chief, MEDVAMC Urology Section.

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 and 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. 

“Complaints regarding access to Urology dropped from 45 in fiscal year 2004 to just seven in fiscal year 2005. The Urology Section is just the first of many success stories to come. Right now, we are piloting a new program in Phlebotomy, moving phlebotomists into the Prime Care Clinics with the goal of reducing wait time for veterans who need blood drawn for laboratory tests,” said Kathy Salazar, MEDVAMC Clinic Access Coordinator.

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