Military Connection: The Real VA: By Debbie Gregory

PACT_graphic

By Debbie Gregory

The VA has recently come under fire with allegations that have led some to call for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation. These allegations, many of them unsubstantiated, have been blasted across the media, causing many to harbor distrust for the VA.

In surveys taken by VA healthcare patients, Veterans indicated that they are more likely to recommend treatment at a VA facility than at non-VA facilities. This corresponds with the 2013 American Customer Satisfaction Index, which reported that Veterans strongly endorse VA health care, with 91 percent offering positive assessments of inpatient care and 92 percent for outpatient care.

The VA is rapidly evolving to provide the best support and care to the men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces. One of the ways that the VA is working to improve quality care for Veterans and their dependents is the utilization of Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs).

PACTs were implemented by the VA in 2010 and are considered the cornerstone of the transformation initiative intended to streamline the way Veterans receive their healthcare.

A PACT is a team of healthcare professionals who work individually with Veterans to provide whole-person care and life-long health and wellness. Teams are comprised of a provider, a Registered Nurse care manager, a clinical associate, and an administrative associate. Clinical pharmacists, social workers, nutritionists, and behavioral health staff also work in support roles, as needed, in PACTs.

Since 2010, the number of VA primary care patients has increased 12%. But, mainly due to PACTs, the number of encounters with Veterans has increased by 50%.  Despite the increase of primary care patients, access to VA primary care has improved and the continuity of care is better.

Also, Veteran access to primary care during extended hours (non-business hours) has increased 75% since January, 2013. In fact, 78% of Veterans are able to see their own primary care provider for an appointment on the date they desire. And nearly 65% of Veterans requesting a same day primary care appointment with their personal provider are accommodated.

The VA is a very large government agency. There are many moving parts, with many opportunities for the ball to be dropped. There is room for improvement within the VA from the top to the bottom. But there is also a lot that the VA does that the media isn’t telling you.

For more information about PACTs or the VA healthcare system visit www.va.gov/health

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Military Connection: The Real VA: By Debbie Gregory