Since the initiation of quarterly town hall meetings in September of 2014, the stage has been set for effective, ongoing collaborations between VHA and the Veterans they serve, Veteran Service Organizations, federal, state and local governments, along with community members.
This continued initiative, however, is nothing new for the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System (VAAAHS).
At VAAAHS, Veterans have been influencing the decision making process since the facility first opened its doors in 1953.
Initially via focus groups, the first official “Listening Posts” were tried in 2009, and efforts have increased with the implementation of quarterly Veteran town hall meetings.
According to Linda Harrison, the VAAAHS Veteran-Centered Care Coordinator, the Ann Arbor VA has been “systematically integrating Veteran feedback throughout the years,” which has “played an integral role in shaping the hospital.”
“Building names, signage, and even patient rooms have been decided or designed by our Veterans,” Harrison said.
Efforts have not gone unnoticed. The patient-centered approach has helped VAAAHS achieve the honor of being awarded the Planetree Silver Merit for being an outstanding healthcare system with a patient-centered focus – a designation VAAAHS hopes to apply for gold recognition by the end of FY15.
“We know that every opportunity we have to hear directly from our Veterans is an invaluable component of our mission to provide exceptional healthcare that improves Veterans’ health and well-being,” said Robert P. McDivitt, Director of the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.
Although VAAAHS has a long history of providing an open line of communication for Veterans, town halls were typically limited to Veterans who are located close to the main facility in Ann Arbor or those who were there for a scheduled appointment.
“We want to make sure that all of our Veterans have a chance to be heard,” said Director McDivitt.
To reach deeper into the community, VAAAHS has since bolstered efforts by hosting town halls in various locations and at various times, and even online by initiating a series of Facebook town halls coordinated with subject matter experts to target specific issues and provide timely information to Veterans, caregivers, staff and others.
According to VAAAHS Public Affairs Officer, Derek Atkinson, Veterans who can’t come to the main facility in Ann Arbor can participate in a town hall at a CBOC closer to home, or online.
“Face-to-face interactions are great,” said Atkinson. “But we want to give all of our Veterans the opportunity to help shape the future of their VA. Now they can participate in these discussions, or simply gather information right on our Facebook page.”