Analyzing wait times at VA health care facilities


Data about the monthly wait times at VA facilities in the US are now available, but it's a bit overwhelming to try to analyze them in tabular form - plotting the data on a map made it a lot easier!...

Here in the US, when our soldiers finish their commitment in the military (retire, or are honorably discharged), they are allowed to utilize the VA health care facilities. But the VA facilities have been under a lot of scrutiny lately - in particular for long wait times.

A recent article in our local news mentioned that the worst VA wait times are in the South. The article mentioned several specific examples, but being a data person, I wanted to see the actual data. I looked around a bit and found the actual data for February 2015. Here's a screen-capture of a portion of the table:


Unfortunately the data are in a table in a pdf file, which makes it quite cumbersome to work with. I ended up copying and pasting it one line at a time into a simple text file I could import into SAS. I got all major rows for each group of facilities (rather than trying to get each individual facility). I then used Proc Geocode to estimate a lat/long for each facility, and annotated them as markers on a map, color-coded based on the number of appointments completed in under 30 days. (Click the map below to see the interactive version, with html hover-text for each marker.)


At this level of aggregation, it does appear that the South might be doing a bit worse than the Northeast, and my state (North Carolina) has some red, orange, and yellow markers (which will hopefully be improving). But rather than trying to compare all the facilities across the nation, I liked that the map allowed me to see where the facilities are located, and hover over them to see their data.

My next step would be to plot all the individual facilities (instead of the aggregate data) - and it would be *great* to find a more convenient version of the data (maybe a spreadsheet or csv file). If anybody knows of a better data source, let me know (hint, hint!)

And to close this blog post, here's a picture of my friend Trena's husband, proudly serving his country - hopefully by the time he's out of the military, we'll have all the facilities running like well-oiled machines, with short wait times and good service!



About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over a quarter century, and his specialty is customizing graphs and maps - adding those little extra touches that help them answer your questions at a glance. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University.

1 Comment

  1. Evelyn Looney on

    Thank you, Robert, for making this info so quick and easy to understand. Since my husband is a Vietnam Veteran, he frequently sees various doctors at a VA Medical facility in the south. One thing I have noticed is that after we get to the hospital for an appointment, he rarely ever has to wait more than 15 minutes before getting in to see a doctor. Free valet service is great when parking is a problem, too. For my husband, it has worked better to get another appt. in person rather than to try to get a satisfactory call in to make an appointment. Being put on hold for long periods of time is frustrating, and in at least one incidence he was told he would get a call-back concerning an appt. Several months later he still had not heard from the V.A.. We scheduled an appointment with a civilian doctor and he was diagnosed and successfully treated for cancer. I'm sure lots of vets would be interested in knowing the locations when considering relocating. to other areas of the US. I hope the V.A. Hospitals will always keep striving for excellence and promptness in arrangements for the care of our deserving veterans.

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