VA Health Care

Telephone Service Should Be More Accessible to Patients Gao ID: HRD-91-110 July 31, 1991

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO identified ways in which Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers can decrease the amount of time nurses spend on nonclinical activities, focusing on benefits of providing telephone service to patients in their rooms.

GAO found that: (1) with few exceptions, VA medical centers do not provide telephones in patients' rooms; (2) telephone service in the patients' rooms increases the nursing time available for direct patient care and enhances the quality of life for patients; (3) assisting patients with telephone calls is one of the primary nonclinical tasks that adversely affect nurse productivity; (4) VA can procure telephone equipment and services with appropriated funds but has not done so because of the substantial cost involved; and (5) alternatives for funding telephone services include requesting appropriated funds for installing telephone equipment in medical centers and requesting concurrent authority to charge fees to recoup service costs, seeking financial or equipment assistance from private-sector organizations, and charging patients for telephone services.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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