Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
V.A. Inspector General Says Problems at Call Center Risk Veterans’ Lives
The Inspector General of the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department has issued a report highly critical of emergency call handling by the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in San Diego.
The report says 20 agents are employed by the healthcare system in a Mission Valley office to “answer calls from patients who may want to renew medications, leave messages for primary care providers, discuss symptoms with advice nurses, schedule primary care appointments, obtain laboratory results, or request transfer of care.”
Emergency calls are supposed to be referred by the agents for evaluation by healath care professionals, but according to the report, an unidentified whistleblower charged last May that “patients reporting emergency symptoms on the call line were at risk for delays in care and poor clinical outcomes.”
The complaint included allegations that a “supervisor instructed an agent to bypass the advice nurses, causing a serious delay in care that could have lead to death,” and that “Inexperienced and poorly trained… agents, without clinical knowledge or an understanding of basic medical terminology, were managing clinical calls.”
According to the audit: “We substantiated the allegation that … agents were inexperienced and lacked appropriate training.
"Failure to provide training on the basic competencies such as symptomatic and emergent call documentation and routing, and medical terminology put patients at risk.”
Subsequent to the investigation, the report says, VA’s San Diego managers “concurred with the findings and recommendations and provided an acceptable action plan.
“We will follow up on the planned actions until they are completed,” the audit says.