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Charleston VA offers same-day access appointments

At the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, 99% of all patient care clinics are now able to get Veterans in for an appointment within 30 days of their requested date. (Photo by James Arrowood)
At the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, 99% of all patient care clinics are now able to get Veterans in for an appointment within 30 days of their requested date. (Photo by James Arrowood)

Over the past few years, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs have made access to care a top priority.

This focus has led to a marked increase in quick access to health care for Veterans at Charleston VA, where 99% of patient care clinics are now able to get Veterans in for an appointment within 30 days of their requested date.

Through a variety of programs and improvements the Charleston VA has been able to meet the needs of its fast-growing patient population and still excel in the care delivered to Veterans every day.

One way this increase was accomplished is by the expanded use of tele-mental health, tele-health, and weekend and evening clinics to increase access options for Veterans. Charleston VAMC had the most tele-mental health appointments in all of VA last year and is at the forefront of the tele-health push nationwide.

Charleston VA also redesigned its Primary Care appointment program last year, creating more clinic availability, and hired dedicated same-day providers to supplement PACT teams and manage walk-ins and same-day appointment needs. This addition allowed the hospital to maintain the same level of quality care and access for Veterans while providing same-day appointment availability across the health care system. These programs have allowed Charleston VA to complete more than 145,000 same-day appointments for Veterans so far in fiscal year 2019, which accounts for roughly 28% of total appointments.

Additionally, Charleston VA’s adaptation of the VEText program, a national appointment text reminder system that is being used for every Veteran who has a mobile number listed with their VAMC, helped to decrease missed and late appointments. VEText sends a text reminder seven days before a Veteran’s appointment, and again two days before the appointment. The Veteran has the option to confirm or cancel the appointment by responding to the text. This system supplements Charleston VA’s reminder phone calls and letters and aides in forecasting cancelled appointments to open them up for other Veterans.

Another option that has helped Veterans interact with their providers is the My HealtheVet secure messaging program. My HealtheVet allows Veterans to communicate online with their VA health care team and ask non-urgent, non-emergency health related questions as well as update their VA health care team on their health condition, manage their VA appointments, request VA referrals and medication renewals, and ask routine administrative questions.

To use the Secure Messaging feature, Veterans must register on My HealtheVet as a VA Patient and have a Premium account. Learn more about upgrading your My HealtheVet account through Upgrading to a Premium My HealtheVet Account, or contact Heather Friesen, Charleston VA My HealtheVet Communications Specialist, at 843-789-6504.

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