A pilot program has been announced that allow veterans in the Phoenix area to use their benefits at CVS MinuteClinics. This would allow the nearly 120,000 veterans currently being served by the VA in Phoenix to go to any of 24 different local MinuteClinics, when medically appropriate, while still going to the VA for more serious illnesses or medical attention. MinuteClinic records will be electronically shared with the VA’s primary care physicians to ensure continuity of care. The initiative was prompted in part by the 2014 scandal over VA wait times, in which several patients in Phoenix may have died while waiting for medical care. Senator McCain, who supports the program, says “Veteran’s 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”

CVS Minute Clinic – Wikimedia/Michael Rivera

This would be an extension of the VA’s Choice programs, which is currently only available to veterans who either have to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to receive care. President Trump plans to sign legislation in April to extend the $10 billion Choice program “until its money runs out,” pending the approval of a broader plan this fall. VA Secretary David Shulkin says he is working for a broader collaboration of “integrated care” between the VA and the private sector. The choice to partner with CVS specifically was made based on veteran’s feedback and a smaller test run in Palo Alto California last year. The ultimately successful run in Palo Alto was announced in May of 2016, and allowed the 60,000 veterans enrolled in the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System to go to 14 area MinuteClinics, allowing patients to fill prescriptions written at the clinics in the CVS Pharmacies.

This may be part of a larger trend, as medical care across the country has been increasingly shifting to outpatient care as both methods of providing care, aided by drug and technology developments, and the health insurance market change over time. Only serious cases go to hospitals, hospital stays are getting shorter, ultimately resulting in many hospitals getting rid of beds and reducing capacity. Over 90% of healthcare is administered outside of major hospitals, including routine check-ups, dialysis treatment, and vaccinations.

Sources and Further Reading:

MinuteClinic Announces First-of-its-Kind Initiative with the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care SystemCVS Health

Some vets can go to CVS ‘MinuteClinics’ for minor illnessesABC News

CVS MinuteClinics to relieve stress on Phoenix VA, opens doors to many veterans in ArizonaAZ Central

CVS’ MinuteClinic teams with VA to expand health care access for veteransDrug Store News

Hospitals face closures as ‘a new day in healthcare’ dawnsModern Healthcare