VA Medical Center Reinvents Patient Care


Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs

Title: VA Medical Center Reinvents Patient Care

Background Information

VA doctors, nurses, and administrators who have been dedicated and innovative for years now have new freedom as a Reinvention Lab, and a new source of pride, a modern and beautiful Medical Center in the heart of Baltimore. It has all come together to spark bold advances in management and technology, all with one focus: the patient, the customer.


The old way was to treat patients like Henry Ford built cars. A sick veteran was passed from specialist to specialist, from room to room, like a chassis on an assembly line. The hospital staff was organized according to their narrow job descriptions and assigned to stations. Nurses took care of whoever was in their assigned rooms; if a patient was moved to another room, he got a new nurse.

The new way is to organize around the patient. A small team of people, each of whom have broad training and responsibility, is assigned with the attending physician to a specific patient. They make the daily rounds together, going to whatever room the patient is in, plan goals for their patient and administer a complete course of treatment together, and get to know and be known by the patient and the family. It is more rewarding for the staff, more comforting for the patient, and better medicine.


Some of the technological advances are fancy, some are simple. For example, they are pioneering the medical application of computer image enhancement developed by NASA. An X-ray recorded digitally, instead of on film, can be enhanced and enlarged and detailed to such an extent that a patient doesn't need as many exposures or as intense a dose.

Computerized storage of X-ray, CAT scan, magnetic resonance, and photographic images allow specialists all over the hospital simultaneously to analyze all of a patient's pictures and other medical data. That makes for better medicine and eliminates the ant-hill-like activity of a typical film storage and retrieval operation. Simpler technology with high payoff includes bedside telephones, a rarity in VA hospitals, and nurse-friendly computers with menus of common medical procedures that make charting daily care easy.

Main NPR Category: Customer Service

Contact Person: Stewart Liff

Contact Phone: (212) 620-6201

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