I was doing some research not long ago and ran across an article that’s over a year old, but it said something that piqued my interest. The March 4, 2016, USA Today article was titled “New VA Hotline Chief Has a History of Dropped Calls from Veterans.” The article discusses, among other things, the abysmal abandonment rate, when callers get tired of waiting on someone to answer and just hang up, for the VA’s suicide hotline. The thrust of the article is that the guy selected to run the hotline, Matt Eitutis, didn’t have such a great abandonment rate while he was running the Health Resource Center. In fact, the HRC in 2015 had an abandonment rate of 26%. That’s waaaaay above acceptable standards for call centers. Accordingly, people were questioning Eitutis’s selection to run the hotline. Here’s that interesting excerpt:
“It shows that Mr. Eitutis’ office has a history of dropping calls from veterans,” said Davis, who works in the VA’s national enrollment center, which falls under Member Services. “I don’t know how someone can look at the performance of that operation and say, ‘This is a guy we should give a promotion to.'”
But Gibson, who did not dispute the accuracy of the data, said that before Eitutis was placed in charge of the Health Resource Center and its phone banks, the VA wasn’t even sure how many calls it was missing.
Of course, the first paragraph of the quoted text above deals with the complaint. The second paragraph is the Deputy Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson’s defense of his choice of Eitutis–at least part of his defense, and the only part I’m really interested in. Please allow me to repeat that part: “[B]efore Eitutis was placed in charge of the Health Resource Center and its phone banks, the VA wasn’t even sure how many calls it was missing.
Whoa! Not sure? Really? As my regular readers may be aware, I was formerly an employee of one of the Health Resource Center’s business lines, Pharmacy Customer Care, a call center operation that takes the calls for pharmacies at dozens of VA medical centers along the East Coast, Louisiana, and Texas. It establishes an official relationship with these VAMCs via a memorandum of understanding. These MOUs specify that Pharmacy Customer Care will meet certain minimum performance standards, and, I do believe, the abandonment rate was one of them. I’m going to get my hands on one of those MOUs and see what that threshold was, assuming it was one of the criteria. If Deputy Secretary Sloan was right, then the Health Resource Center and, by extension, Pharmacy Customer Care, didn’t know what its abandonment rate was until Eitutis got there and made some changes. The 2016 article said he’d been running the Health Resource Center for the past two years, so that would mean that no one knew the abandonment rate until sometime in 2014, possibly later. If the abandonment rate wasn’t in the MOU criteria prior to Eitutis’s arrival, OK. If it was in the criteria then, what abandonment rate was the HRC telling client VAMCs? According to Sloan, they didn’t even know what it was.
Muy interesante, eh?