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SCOUTS pilot streamlines care for older Veterans

Intermediate Care Technicians stand with emergency department leadership in front of hospital
ICT Reyhan Viajar stands with emergency department leadership: Priya Rajagopal, Chief; Joseph Bascos, Assistant Nurse Manager; LeisaAnn Bunte, Nurse Manager, Sharlene Burgos, Acting ICT/Geri-VET/SCOUTS Program Coordinator.

VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) became one of only eleven VA facilities to offer this geriatric Veteran program within the emergency department, screening Veterans who are 70 years or older for high-risk conditions such as caregiver burden, limited mobility, or risk of falls.

The National Center for Health Statistics reports the highest users of emergency department (ED) services were people over 65 years old. With this being around the average age of Veterans in the U.S., VA continues to find ways to innovate care for these Veterans with pilot programs like S.C.O.U.T.S, or “Supporting Community, Outpatient, Urgent Care, and Telehealth Services.”

VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) became one of only eleven VA facilities to offer this geriatric Veteran program within the emergency department, screening Veterans who are 70 years or older for high-risk conditions such as caregiver burden, limited mobility, or risk of falls.

The program was first launched at the Cleveland VA Medical Center, aimed to reduce readmissions of older Veterans, while staying on top of their health care. ED leadership recruited Intermediate Care Technicians (ICT) to perform the screenings and provide these Veterans with the tools to streamline their care with virtual options.

“With the Cleveland VA’s foundation, along with support from the ICT Program and our leadership at VA Palo Alto, we were able to launch this pilot quickly,” said Joseph Bascos, Assistant Nurse Manager for the ED at VAPAHCS.

Bascos worked with his department and other key players in the health care system to implement S.C.O.U.T.S within 90 days of funding, launching in June 2021. One month later, they expanded the pilot to complete the screening process in the comfort of a Veteran’s home.

During a home visit, the ICT provides a digital consult to ensure Veterans have a smart device and a good connection for virtual appointments. They assist with the first appointment to troubleshoot any technical issues and can enhance the virtual visit with a digital stethoscope that allows doctors to virtually listen to heart health in real time.

Working with social workers, the ICTs also check on their well-being, including access to food and ensuring a safe environment.

“As a Veteran that served as a Navy Corpsman, I truly believe in this program. All of the fellow Veterans that we have helped so far have said they are astonished of the level of care we provide and are very appreciative of S.C.O.U.T.S,” said ICT Reyhan Viajar.

The integration of ICT program, a nationwide effort to place former Navy Corpsmen and combat medics within VA medical centers, falls right in line with many VA initiatives that have Veterans providing care for another Veteran.

Learn more about the VA’s Intermediate Care Technician program and how ICTs are helping to improve care for our nation’s Veterans.

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