The Veterans Administration and CVS have partnered for a test program that will enable the pharmacy chain’s MinuteClinic Urgent Care Centers to treat some veterans for minor injuries and ailments.
This program that is launching in the Phoenix area but it can be expanded. Patients will still be required to contact a VA help line. Veterans may be referred to one of the in-store clinics for minor injuries and illnesses if the nurse answering the phone deems it “medically appropriate.”
This new program comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans.
The Phoenix pilot program is a test-run by VA Secretary David Shulkin who is working on a nationwide plan to reduce veterans’ wait times.
Under this program, Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA’s Choice program. The current procedures limit outside care to those who have been waiting more than thirty days for an appointment or have to drive more than forty miles to a facility.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a long-time advocate of Veterans and expanded access to private care, thinks this new initiative is an “important step forward.”
“I’ve long believed that Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like the CVS MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care,” said Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Senator McCain serves as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Veterans Health Administration said it opted to go with a CVS partnership in Phoenix after VA officials there specifically pushed for the additional option. They cited the feedback of local Veterans and the success of a smaller test run with CVS last year in Palo Alto, California.
The VA did not indicate whether it received requests from other VA medical centers or how quickly it might expand the program elsewhere.
“We believe in the MinuteClinic model of care and are excited to offer our health care services as one potential solution for the Phoenix VA Health Care System and its patients,” said Tobias Barker, Chief Medical Officer of CVS MinuteClinic.
Unlike the standard national Choice program, Veterans in need of acute care can be referred to a MinuteClinic right away. Their health records will be shared electronically with the clinic. Nurse practitioners for MinuteClinic can write prescriptions and give common immunizations.
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