VA tests partnership with CVS to reduce veterans' wait times

Matt Rourke  AP

"I applaud the VA for increasing its transparency by making patient wait times and care data available online", Rutherford noted.

The program, which will be limited to the Phoenix area at launch but could be expanded, will still require patients to contact a VA help line.

VA now pays for CVS "MinuteClinics" in Phoenix as part of a pilot project to treat minor illnesses and injuries to decrease wait times.

"Veterans must have access to information that is clear and understandable to make informed decisions about their health care", said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David J. Shulkin.

Dr. Yehia is leading the VA in its transformational journey to provide Veterans with easy access to personalized care from a robust network of federal and private providers.

The innovative program introduces and access points for receiving care. According to the VA website, the average wait time for a new patient to see a primary care doctor in Sioux Falls is 16 days. Since then, the entire Veterans Affairs health system has been exploring new ways to expand choice and reduce the interminable time between requesting an appointment and seeing a clinician. Other benefits that are likely to come with the new initiative is the elimination of Choice's 30-day, 40-mile restrictions.

However, the Phoenix facility has a number of issues that ought to be settled out.

"My district is home to one of the largest veterans populations in the country and despite some improvements we've been able to make over the past few years, veterans are still experiencing problems with getting timely access to quality care, especially in rural areas", Rooney said on Thursday.

Maureen McCarthy, the Phoenix VA's chief of staff, welcomed the new CVS partnership but acknowledged a potential challenge in providing seamless coordination to avoid gaps in care.

Nonetheless, the new CVS partnership is the beginning point of enhancing the successful provision of healthcare services.

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