Two Bay Pines Projects Attract National Attention - Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
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Two Bay Pines Projects Attract National Attention

March 25, 2016

On the Path to Improving Veterans’ Experience Nationwide

BAY PINES, Fla. – Two Bay Pines VA Healthcare System projects were among the top 13 ‘Promising Practice’ finalists selected as part of the Veterans Health Administration’s  (VHA) Promising Practices Consortium competition, a new platform hosted online where VHA employees can share successful operational, clinical and program practices with the potential for enterprise-wide implementation.  

The Promising Practices Consortium is championed by David J. Shulkin, M.D., VA Under Secretary for Health. It was created to foster a culture of innovation, enable system-wide dissemination of standardization of best practices and recognize VA employees in the process.

VA employees were invited to submit practices through December 15, 2015. Over 250 projects VA-wide were submitted and reviewed since launch. Of those, 41 were selected as semi-finalists including seven projects from VISN 8 facilities to include Bay Pines, North Florida/South Georgia and the network office.

The two Bay Pines finalist projects, “Audiology and Optometry Direct Scheduling” and “Unit Tracking Board: Where We Stand at a Glance,” made the final cut and were selected as “Gold Standard Practices.” And two Bay Pines’ employees who spearheaded the projects – Dr. Michelle Menendez, Chief, Audiology and Speech Pathology Service and Michael Finch, Quality Management Specialist and Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL), Quality Systems Service -- were recognized as “Gold Standard Fellows.”

Project leads were offered the opportunity to present their ideas in front of a panel of Network and Medical Center Directors from across the country who will be supporting the spread of Gold Standard Practices through funding, dedicated personnel, and other resources.

Audiology & Optometry Direct Scheduling Pilot Improves Veterans Access  

The 120-day Audiology and Optometry Direct Scheduling Pilot began at Bay Pines in March 2015. Its primary goal was for patients who needed Audiology (hearing) and Optometry (eye) services to be able to schedule their appointments directly--without having to be referred by their primary care provider, which required a visit to their doctor and was the current practice. An additional goal was to reduce the Primary Care workload, thereby improving access for other patients. 

By the end of 2015, Veterans who chose to schedule appointments directly reduced their wait times for appointments by 19 days in Audiology and nine days in Optometry.  And other changes made as a result of the pilot have made a big difference in patient access and experience. 

“By simply eliminating an appointment with a primary care provider, we were able to free up primary care physicians to treat more patients,” said Menendez.

“And the Veterans love the ease of scheduling an appointment themselves or simply walking in and receiving the (audiology) services they need at our highly utilized walk in clinic for established patients and same day access for new patients at our larger sites.  It was a WIN-WIN for everyone,” she said.

Unit Tracking Board Makes Data Come Alive for Nurses

Collecting core measurement data—like the fall rate among patients—and communicating it to the medical staff can lead to new and better ways to take care of Veterans and a better overall patient experience. Tracking core measures helps staff monitor the outcomes of recommended treatments that scientific evidence shows produces the best results.

But core health care data is often complex and difficult to display. Nurses and other clinical professionals may struggle to understand it and as a result, important information can be overlooked or neglected by those who provide direct patient care and are in the best position to make positive changes that can improve patient outcomes.

Finch knew there was a better way to communicate this important information to front line staff—and it wouldn’t cost a lot to do it.  In March 2014, he created a Unit Tracking Board of core measures that’s simple, easy to understand and dynamic in that it can be changed and customized for different medical units with ease.

The board allows staff to quickly glance at the numbers, understand their importance and apply it to their daily practice in order to continually improve the patient experience.

When there is no new data—such as no new patient falls or infections—the laminated board shows the number of days since – for example: “30 days since our last fall.” It also displays Veteran satisfaction scores for the medical center along with other data. 

Together, the information provided on the tracking board can instill pride about the successes of their unit along with a reminder to continually improve through staff collaboration and a shared goal of providing the very best care to Veterans.

“Both of the projects recognized nationally as Gold Standard Practices speak to our organization’s goal to be a national leader, innovator, and early adopter of new programs aimed to improve the Veteran experience,” said Suzanne M. Klinker, Director, Bay Pines VAHCS.

“While these projects are large in scale, smaller and equally as important improvements are made by Bay Pines employees every day,” she continued. “I am very proud to be associated with these professionals and admire their commitment to building a high performing network equipped to meet and exceed health care needs of America’s heroes.”


About the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

The Bay Pines VAHCS is one of the nation’s leading VA healthcare systems, employing more than 4,000 medical professionals and support staff dedicated to providing the very best care to Veterans residing in southwest Florida. The organization is the fourth busiest VA health care system in the country in terms of patients served and is accredited by The Joint Commission, Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and several other nationally recognized accrediting organizations. The Bay Pines VAHCS operates nine facilities to include the main medical center located in Bay Pines and outpatient clinics located in Bradenton, Cape Coral, Naples, Palm Harbor, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Sebring.  To learn more, please visit or like us on Facebook at