The success of VA’s new Community Care program is contributing to an increased number of Veterans accessing care and revealing VA career recruitment needs in key medical specialties, according to VHA Executive in Charge Dr. Richard Stone, who testified on Sept. 25 before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health.
Launched on June 6 as part of the MISSION Act, the Community Care program aims to provide Veterans with more options for timely, high-quality healthcare by streamlining all aspects of community care provisions, including eligibility, authorization, appointments, and claims and payments.
Revealing hiring needs
The Community Care program has already received more than 1 million consultations, fueled in part by an 80,000 increase in the number of Veteran patients accessing VA care. Although this is a strong tribute to the initial success of the program, Stone recognized a residual need to hire more medical specialists to accommodate VA’s growth.
“We have some very difficult areas in the country where we have trouble recruiting,” he said, specifically citing growing demand for providers in gastroenterology, neurology, neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery.
With 1.6 million more ambulatory appointments this year than in fiscal 2018, Stone said VA may need legislative relief to accomplish its more ambitious recruitment goals. He noted that VHA is already transforming its human resources and workforce management protocols in preparation for even more Veterans choosing VA for their healthcare needs.
Providing greater access to care
“The bottom line is, the MISSION Act is a success,” Stone said. “We have improved how we do all aspects of our business, from scheduling of appointments to referring Veterans to specialists, thus resulting in enhanced services for our enrolled Veterans.”
Committee members of both parties largely agreed that VHA’s implementation of the Community Care program has been instrumental in expanding Veterans’ access to quality care.
“Our priority remains the integration of Veterans’ care, when and where they need it,” Stone said.
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