In a move to provide more greater "transparency," the Veterans Affairs Department activated a website Wednesday to give vets the wait times for appointments at every VA hospital and clinic nationwide by clicking in their zip codes.
The website, accesstocare.va.gov, also for the first time provides information on how care at VA hospitals compares with nearby private-sector hospitals and national averages.
The Access and Quality in VA Health site has four sections: "How quickly can my VA facility see me? How satisfied are veterans with their care in my facility? How does care in my facility compare to other hospitals in my area? How is the VA system doing with access nationally?"
The VA called the site the "most transparent and easy to understand wait time and quality data website in the health-care industry."
"Veterans must have access to information that is clear and understandable to make informed decisions about their health care," VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin said in a statement.
"No other health-care system in the country releases this type of information on wait times. This allows veterans to see how VA is performing," he said.
The initial response to the new initiative from Congress and veterans service organizations was positive.
"It's a work in progress," but "it's a very good initiative to give veterans information on when and where to seek care," said Joe Davis, a spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
It's also an "incentive to do better" for those facilities with long wait times that now will be publicized, Davis said.
"These efforts to improve transparency in health care can't help but be a good thing," said Joe Plenzler, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the American Legion. The information on the website lets veterans know how their VA facilities "stack up against other hospitals in the area," he said.
Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, praised Shulkin "for making this important data readily available to improve the veteran's experience at VA and increase accountability at the department. Transparency is a critical component of VA reform," he said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.