As part of the Secretary’s major initiative to transform VA health care, VA launched innovative changes to our primary care program. The Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) model was designed to be the hub in our health care system, connecting patients with more coordinated health care services, improving access, and partnering with patients to improve their overall health and well-being.
As the name implies, patients get a health care team that is not only skilled at managing disease but also can assist the Veteran in improving their physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being. This requires the patient to be an active member of his or her team.
When specialty services are needed to meet the Veteran’s health needs and personal goals, the team is there to ensure timely referral to the right specialist and then helps to coordinate that care. The PACT team can offer patients access to VA’s excellent “connected health” tools, such as home-based monitoring, telehealth and secure messaging. They can also arrange for appointments with other dedicated VA professionals, such as diabetes educators, who can help Veterans stay healthy and better manage their chronic conditions. This means less time visiting the doctor, fewer emergency room visits and fewer days spent in the hospital. And that translates into more time for the Veteran to manage other priorities.
Patients can now communicate with their primary care provider using secure messaging, an email-like service, for non-urgent issues. The adoption of new technologies also allows patients to have clinic visits using clinical video teleconferencing, either through dedicated multi-media equipment in our clinics or even at home through a webcam. As VA expands the use of these approaches, Veterans will have more convenient and timely access to VA health care services.
To see examples of PACT in action, I’d encourage you to watch our video with Veterans receiving care from a VA team. In the video, three Veterans talk about how this new model of care has really changed their lives – helping them be healthier, more productive and fulfilled. Better team-based care has improved Kristie’s life. Tom found the motivation to make significant lifestyle changes and now better manages his diabetes. And, better coordination of services helped Henry find a new lease on life.
We are constantly striving to improve VA health care. We believe that America’s Veterans have earned and deserved the very best. While there are always improvements to be made, the three stories in the video demonstrate that we are on the right path with our PACT program. We still have a lot to do, but, with Veterans like Kristie, Tom and Henry, we are working on better health and a better life!
Dr. James A. Tuchschmidt is the executive director, VHA’s Office of Strategic Integration