VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD joins Robert Traynham to discuss improvements underway for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Improving transparency, customer service and continuity for veterans is a top priority along with improving wait times for health care and VA employee accountability. Click here for part 1 of VA Transparency and Priorities.
Interview recorded Oct 11, 2017. Hosted by Robert Traynham.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Robert Traynham: Mr. Secretary, have you [00:03:00] seen any research, any data to perhaps maybe suggest that the VA is on the right track when it comes to wait times, when it comes to the good quality care, when it comes to the accountability that you just referred to?
David Shulkin: Interestingly, as I said, we’re the only system in the entire country that I know that publishes its wait times. Just recently, there has been a report released by an independent organization that reports on wait times around the country. In those situations, [00:03:30] the VA is actually doing much better than the private sector. What many people know is, when they call around and they try to get appointments for doctors, it’s not as easy as people had originally thought. While the VA has more work to do, and we’re focused on improving our timeliness of services, compared to the private sector, we may actually be doing better.
Robert Traynhan: In the few moments that we have left, what I think for the viewers that are watching this at home or perhaps on their smart device, they may be asking the question, Mr. Secretary, how come a veteran cannot just [00:04:00] simply go to the emergency room down the road from their house, or perhaps maybe, if in fact they choose or do not believe that they’re getting good quality care from the VA, they simply cannot go to the doctor of their choice? Why is it so complicated for them, or unique, rather?
David Shulkin: Right. First of all, we are moving to give veterans more choice. That’s a commitment that the President has made, and that I share, that we want veterans to be able to be in charge of their healthcare decisions. We also [00:04:30] have to make sure that the care that’s provided to veterans is coordinated, and that the VA actually is involved. We are there to help veterans, and to help them with their specific issues.
What we’re trying to do is build a system that integrates the very best of what the VA has to offer with the best of what the private sector has to offer. We think veterans deserve no less than that.
Robert Traynham: Last question for you. As I mentioned a few moments ago, I introduced you as Secretary Shulkin, but also Dr. Shulkin. You are [00:05:00] a practicing physician. As I understand it, in the coming days, you will be treating, or at least visiting with some veterans. Explain what you’ll be doing.
David Shulkin: I’m an internist, and I practice at the VA. I see patients as often as I can. I will be practicing in a few days, taking care of patients. It helps me in understanding the types of services that we deliver. I always learn a great deal from my patients, and hopefully I am part of helping them in dealing with their issues as well. [00:05:30] It’s the way I think I can most effectively do my job by actually practicing.
Robert Traynham: I’m curious, are you the first Veteran’s Secretary to be able to actually treat patients?
David Shulkin: I believe that’s the case, yes.
Robert Traynham: Are veteran’s kind of freaked out that the Secretary’s actually treating them, or are they relieved, or a combination of both?
David Shulkin: I don’t introduce myself as the Secretary. I’m their doctor, and I take care of them just like any other doctor in the VA would.
Robert Traynham: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for joining us, and keep up the great work.
David Shulkin: Thank you.
Robert Traynham: Look forward to having you back on to hear more about your progress.
David Shulkin: Thank you so much.
Robert Traynham: Of course, thank you for joining us as well. [00:06:00] For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I’m Robert Traynham.