The Veteran Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System (VAPHS) completed over 750,000 outpatient appointments during fiscal year 2019. With changes occurring around COVID-19, VAPHS saw a significant decline in veterans on campus. VAPHS employees are strongly connected to the mission of serving our nation’s hero’s, while veterans find trust, support and comradery at the VA. The VAPHS Office of Veterans Experience (OVE) realized the impact that COVID-19 isolation may have on veterans quarantined at home and seized the opportunity to continue to build relationships, develop trust and keep connected through the VAPHS Birthday Club. Over 1,300 calls have been placed to provide a non-clinical wellness check-in and provide a warm birthday wish. The gesture of ‘calling because we care and we’re thinking of you’ has provided employees and veterans a way to connect on a human level during a scary and unpredictable time. Hearing the stories of the men and women who borne the battle for our freedoms only reinvigorates our commitment to serving. While some calls last only a few minutes, there are veterans who have requested a follow-up call and now have a standing weekly conversation with a team member. These check-in calls have provided proactive assistance to our veterans by initiating communication between the veteran and healthcare provider, assisting with medication refills or updating demographic information in the chart. While these are all positive outcomes of the program, the most rewarding are the personalized relationships being built with veterans and the happiness and engagement of our employees.
This article is associated with the Patient, Family & Community Engagement lens of The Beryl Institute Experience Framework. (http://bit.ly/ExperienceFramework)
Braun K. Out of sight, but not out of mind: Keeping connections alive during COVID-19. Patient Experience Journal. 2020; 7(2):92-94. doi: 10.35680/2372-0247.1468.