VA Health Care System, CVS test urgent care affiliation

Amid challenges to reduce wait times, the VA Health Care System is launching an initiative at its Palo Alto, Calif., branch with CVS Health to give veterans access to same day appointments.

The urgent care pilot will give more than 60,000 veterans in Northern California access to CVS' MinuteClinics for acute care services, such as treatment for common illnesses and minor injuries, as well as some preventive services like screenings, smoking cessation and contraceptive care.

"The diverse geography of our veteran population requires us to think about access as providing the right care at the right place at the right time — as defined by the veteran. We are particularly excited about working with MinuteClinic because they share our commitment to high-quality care and our belief in meeting veterans' needs as efficiently and effectively as possible," Stephen Ezeji-Okoye, MD, deputy chief of staff for VA Palo Alto Health Care System, said in a press release.

Veterans who call VA Palo Alto's Nurse Helpline can be referred to the closest of 14 MinuteClinic locations, where they can walk in, get a same day appointment and fill a prescription. This option could change access to care drastically for veterans. A March 2016 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found 120 out of 180 veterans had to wait between 22 days and 71 days from the time they requested an appointment to be seen by a provider. Sixty were never seen by a provider over the study period.

CVS' MinuteClinic President Andrew Sussman, MD, told NPR if the partnership in Palo Alto is deemed successful after one year, he hopes to roll it out across the country.


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