VA program to bring specialty care to veterans in rural areas

July 11, 2012 in Medical Technology

WASHINGTON – A new initiative from the Department of Veterans Affairs seeks to bring better care to veterans in remote parts of the country. Specialty Care Access Network-Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (SCAN-ECHO) will deploy video conferencing equipment to rural and underserved locations.

“We are committed to providing increased access to high-quality healthcare to Veterans regardless of where they live,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Through SCAN-ECHO, patients in rural areas with complex medical conditions are now able to receive specialty care treatment from their local VA physician.”

[See also: VA awards $19M contract for mobility network.]

SCAN-ECHO is modeled after an outreach program developed by the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center’s Project ECHO, say VA officials. It allows specialty care teams in areas such as diabetes, pain management, and hepatitis C to use videoconferencing equipment to connect with Veterans’ local primary care providers and Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT).

During a scheduled SCAN-ECHO clinic, the PCP presents a patient’s case, and the specialty care team recommends a treatment plan. Formal clinical education is also provided.

To date, 35 teams in 14 different specialties have been formed as of May, with 150 sessions held and a total of 690 consults completed, officials say.

Shinseki has said that one VA’s top three priorities is increasing access to care and services for veterans wherever they live. VA is expanding this access in a three-pronged effort that includes facilities, programs and technology.

[See also: VA to help veterans with diabetes with remote monitoring.]

This year, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) established a collaborative agreement with the Project ECHO program to educate and provide training materials to VHA staff. ECHO staff will also be available for consultation as VHA’s program continues to expand and new centers are added, officials say.

VA operates one of the nation’s largest integrated health care systems in the country.  With a healthcare budget of about $50 billion, VA expects to provide care to 6.1 million patients during 920,000 hospitalizations and nearly 80 million outpatient visits this year.  VA’s healthcare network includes 152 major medical centers and more than 800 community-based outpatient clinics.

Eleven VA medical facilities currently serve as SCAN-ECHO Centers:

  • VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, Conn.
  • VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Penn.
  • Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, Richmond, Va.
  • Salem VA Medical Center, Salem, Va.
  • Louis Stokes VA Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio
  • VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • New Mexico VA Healthcare System, Albuquerque, N.M.
  • VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare System, Denver, Colo.
  • Portland VA Medical Center, Portland, Ore.
  • San Francisco VA Medical Center
  • Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 22 (services split between VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and VA San Diego Healthcare System).

These centers are piloting the original model as developed by Project ECHO and adapting it to the VHA, officials note. The program is currently being evaluated to ensure that veterans are experiencing improved access to care prior to a system wide expansion.

Project ECHO is funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving health and health care for Americans.

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Article source: http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/va-program-bring-specialty-care-veterans-rural-areas

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