Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

July 22, 2012

VA works to expand medical care to rural areas


By Jim Vines | jim.helpingveterans@gmail.com

A new initiative has been implemented by the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase access to specialty care services for veterans in rural and medically under served areas through the use of video conferencing equipment.

The new initiative is called Specially Care Access Network-Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (SCAN-ECHO). The VA continues to provide increased access to high-quality care to veterans regardless of where they live. Through SCAN-ECHO, patients in rural areas with complex medical conditions are now able to receive specialty care treatment from their local VA physician.

SCAN-ECHO is modeled after an outreach program developed by the University of New Mexico Health Science’s Project ECHO. SCAN-ECHO enables specialty care teams in areas such as diabetes, pain management and Hepatitis C to use video conferencing equipment to connect with veterans’ local primary care providers (PCPs) and Patient Aligned Care Teams. During a scheduled SCAN-ECHO clinic, the PCP presents a patient’s case and the specialty care team recommends a treatment plan. In addition to case presentations, formal clinical education is also provided.

This year, the Veterans Health Administration established a collaborative agreement with the Project ECHO program to educate and provide training materials to VHA staff. In addition, Project ECHO staff will be available for consultation as VHA’s program continues to expand and new centers are added. Eleven VA medical facilities currently serve as SCAN-ECHO centers: West Haven, Conn., Pittsburgh, Pa., Richmond, Va., Salem, Va., St. Luis, Mo., Cleveland, Ohio, Ann Arbor, Mich., Albuquerque, N.M., Denver, Colo., Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Calif. and San Diego, Calif.  

These centers are piloting the original model as developed by Project ECHO and adapting it to the VHA. The program is currently being evaluated to assure that veterans are experiencing improved access to care prior to a system wide expansion. To date, 35 teams in 14 different specialties have been formed as of May, with 150 sessions held and a total of 690 consultations completed. Project ECHO is funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving health and health care for Americans. Check with these locations for scheduled times and dates for veteran demonstration.

The VA operates one of the nation’s largest integrated care systems in the country.

With a health care budget of about $50 billion, the VA expects to provide care to 6.1 million patients during 920,000 hospitalizations and nearly 80 million outpatient visits this year. The VA’s health care network includes 152 major medical centers and more than 800 community based outpatient clinics. For more information visit, www.va.scan-echo.com.

A banner effort

Many “ thanks” to those of you who wrote and called in reference to the flag issue in Mineral Wells at Woodland Cemetery. I was certainly not the only one involved in rectifying the issue. Along with AmVets, local VFW and DAV members represented their respective organizations in resolving this issue. It was a collaboration that included the cemetery board, city council, the public and veterans. When all was said and done, the combined efforts of all laid this problem to rest.

Speak to you again next week.  

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133 in Mineral Wells.