Pennsylvania’s VA Hospital’s rating falls precipitously

The Altoona VA has seen its internal performance rating drop from the top ten percent to as low as the bottom thirty percent in the last three quarters.


ALTOONA, Pa., July 31, 2016 — An embattled Veterans Administration (VA) hospital has seen its internal rating — one that determines bonuses and other performance measures — fall precipitously over the last two quarters.

The Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning (SAIL) is “an internal tool used by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to measure many quality factors for process improvement and learning. This is consistent with VHA’s vision of ‘learning, discovery and continuous improvement.’ The data produced is used by Quality Management, leadership, and all affected services to assure the benchmarks are understood and attained to the highest degree possible,” according to a statement from Andrea Young, public affairs officer at the Altoona VA Medical Center.

In the last two quarters the SAIL for the Altoona VA Medical Center has fallen dramatically from five stars in the last quarter of 2015 to four stars in the first quarter of 2016 to three stars in the second quarter of 2016.

A five-star rating indicates the hospital is performing better than 90 percent of all VA hospitals, a four-star rating indicates that a hospital is operating from between the 70th and 90th percentiles, while a three-star rating indicates a hospital is performing from the bottom 30th to the 70th percentile.

Young downplayed the swift drop, blaming it mostly on falling in one category: “The area where Altoona has seen change over the last two quarters relates to inpatient care transitions and length of stay. Our average daily census in fiscal year 2016 within our inpatient unit was four. As a result, even minor changes in any of our inpatient metrics can skew the results of this data significantly.

 “Altoona VAMC will continue to leverage data and measurement tools to support quality improvement in health care for our veterans. “

An analysis by CDN of the SAIL for the Altoona VAMC found a drop in multiple categories, including a drop in performance of mental health and employee satisfaction and a drop in in the in-patient unit already mentioned by Young.

There are 27 categories measured to determine SAIL.

In the last several months, the Office of Special Counsel released whistleblowers disclosures that the hospital was threatening patient care, and more recently the VA Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) announced that a complaint that the hospital was illegally accessing the medical records of a whistleblower was being added to a larger investigation of systemic problems in the VA of illegally accessing whistleblower medical records.

The most recent SAIL rating for the Altoona VA Medical Center has not yet been made public, but a source provided CDN with an advanced copy.


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