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CVS Retail Clinics, VA Partner for Care Coordination, Access

CVS and the VA will focus on expanding patient access and improving care coordination through a new partnership in the Phoenix area.

Care coordination and patient access

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Phoenix-area veterans who typically receive care through the Department of Veterans Affairs will have a new option for minor ailments: a local CVS Minute Clinic. 

In an effort to improve care coordination and expand access to care for veterans, the VA and CVS Health have announced a new partnership that will establish electronic health information exchange between the two networks to ensure that providers can make informed decisions.

The agreement may help to make it easier for veterans to access care for low-level complaints without having to work through the VA’s notoriously lengthy appointment-setting process.

“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 MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care,” said Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

“Thanks to the leadership of CVS Health and the VA, Phoenix’s nearly 120,000 Veterans will now be served at 24 different area MinuteClinic locations for minor health care services.”

Patients can call the regional VA medical center to get a referral to a MinuteClinic location, CVS said.  Services will be covered by their VA insurance.

The program mirrors an initiative started in 2016 in Palo Alto, California, that also allows veterans to receive referrals to CVS retail clinic locations.

“After patient consent, participating MinuteClinic locations will electronically send patient visit summaries to the patient's primary care physician at the VA,” CVS explained at the time.

The corporation selected an Epic Systems electronic health record in 2014 to support its MinuteClinic business.

"By allowing our electronic health records to communicate and share important clinical information, we'll have a more comprehensive view of the Veterans we collectively serve, which will enable important health care decision making and ensure continuity of care," said Andrew Sussman, MD, Executive Vice President and Associate Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health and President, MinuteClinic.

“We're committed to providing top-notch care to the area's Veterans and this relationship will allow us to do so in locations and at times that are convenient for the VA's patients."

Veterans in Phoenix will benefit from the same data exchange capabilities, and may have a great deal to gain from alternative care choices in the region. 

In 2014, the Phoenix VA was at the center of a torrid scandal involving patient wait times.  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.

Even under the popular VA Choice program, which allows qualifying veterans to seek appointments with non-VA providers when VA physicians are unavailable, patients wait an average of 24 days to receive care.

The MinuteClinic partnership may allow veterans to access care much more quickly through the VA referral hotline. 

Nurse practitioners at retail clinic locations typically offer help for minor common illnesses, such as ear infections, respiratory infections, sore throats, or strains and sprains.  The clinics also offer routine vaccinations and a suite of wellness and preventive care services such as blood pressure checks and smoking cessation coaching.

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