Increasing Quality of Care for Veterans in Federally Qualified Health Centers
January 3, 2020
In recent years, there has been an increased reliance by veterans on health care provided in the private sector (i.e., in non-VA settings).
Over the last four years, the VA has increased the amount of private care it purchases for eligible veterans from 20% of all appointments to more than 30%. In addition, the recently passed VA Mission Act has streamlined eligibility standards, increasing the number of VA patients who are eligible to receive private care. Despite this trend, an NYSHealth-funded RAND Corporation report found that only 2% of private providers in New York State fully met readiness criteria for effectively serving the veteran population. To improve provider readiness, the RAND report recommended increasing provider understanding of and engagement with the VA, improving provider screening practices, and increasing provider familiarity with military culture and service-connected health conditions. In 2020, NYSHealth awarded Union Community Health Center (UCHC) a grant to help address these gaps by developing a model to better facilitate coordinated care between community health centers and the VA.
Under this grant, UCHC will develop a model to improve coordinated care between community health centers and the VA. Operating at seven locations, UCHC is the only federally qualified health center in the Bronx that is authorized to provide urgent/rapid care outside of a VA clinic or hospital and that is eligible for VA reimbursement. UCHC will first implement this new model among its system, and then create a blueprint for other community health centers to follow. UCHC will recruit a Veterans’ Liaison employee to oversee implementation of new and enhanced processes to improve coordination between its services and the VA. Under the new model, it will assist veterans in obtaining necessary referrals from the VA to see UCHC providers and ensure eligibility is checked; screen for veterans already in the UCHC system who were not referred from the VA and connect them to benefits they qualify for; and monitor all internal and external referrals to better connect veterans to holistic care at UCHC or elsewhere in a timely manner. UCHC will also track and analyze a range of metrics, including wait times, number of veterans referred from the VA, no-show rates, types of referrals and appointments, and health outcomes. The resulting information will help determine the effectiveness of this project and identify any issues along the way. UCHC will then create and disseminate a blueprint document with recommendations for other community health centers and health care organizations to implement this model throughout New York State and nationally. This blueprint will outline the lessons learned from this project, with the goal of having comparable community health centers replicate the model.