West Texas Talk:
West Texas VA’s Director Kalautie JangDhari on Services and Low SAIL Ratings

In this interview, Director Kalautie JangDhari talks about the challenges for the West Texas Veterans Affair System due to the rural nature of the geography it serves.

This year, the system received a 1-star rating out of 5 (the lowest score possible) for the second year in a row. The Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning Value Model (SAIL) is a system for summarizing hospital system performance within Veterans Health Administration. The assessment is based on measures such as death rate, complications, and patient satisfaction, as well as overall efficiency and physician capacity at individual VA Medical Centers.

JangDhari explains the measures significantly affecting the system’s rating are patient perception, provider retention, and access. “When you’re in a rural environment, it’s very difficult to drive in and be seen because you don’t know about those clinical video telehealth systems, or you don’t know about the phone numbers and our nurse triage system and the other things,” says JangDhari. “Then you can get a little taken aback…”

Part of the West Texas VA’s response to these challenges is engaging and educating veterans around the services available in a rural environment – specifically teleheath services. In order to mitigate the burden of long distances, this technology allows patients and physicians to see each other remotely. JangDhari explains, “You might not be seen face to face by a provider, but that doesn’t negate that you have opportunities to be seen through the telehealth system…” The system is also making strides in recruiting healthcare provides who are dedicated to the VA’s mission to serve veterans, whether that be in West Texas or remotely. (The Veterans Choice Program also allows veterans who qualify to see participating community providers rather than driving long distances to VA clinics.)

“What you’re seeing are some methodical and very specifically focused efforts in our customer service, in the access to care that we have, and in the expansion of services that we provide in working with our partners in the community,” says JangDhari, adding she hopes that the West Texas VA will move up from a 1 star rating very soon.

“The West Texas VA Health Care System proudly serves Veterans in 33 counties across 53,000 square miles of rural geography in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. The George H. O’Brien, Jr. VA Medical Center is located in Big Spring, Texas. The Permian Basin Community Based Outpatient Clinic  is located in Midland/Odessa, Texas, with other CBOCs in Abilene, TX, San Angelo, TX, and Hobbs, NM. There are two outreach clinics in Stamford, TX, and Fort Stockton, TX. Two Vet Centers also provide services and are located in Abilene, TX and Midland, TX. More than 56,000 Veterans reside within the service area, of which approximately 17,000 (30%) receive care from the WTVAHCS. On average, the health care system supports over 170,000 outpatient visits annually.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They’re committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness. If you need to speak to someone, you can call 1-800-273-8255.

About Diana Nguyen

Diana Nguyen produces the interview program West Texas Talk. She is particularly interested in exploring the intersection of range life, high-brow art, and the vast oil fields of West Texas.

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West Texas Talk is broadcast Thursdays at 6:00 PM and Fridays at 9:00 PM.
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