VA Maryland Health Care System
Maintaining Care While on VacationWhen Veterans with chronic health issues opt to spend prolonged periods in a different location, the extended travel means being away from their primary care providers at the VA Maryland Health Care System. This can give Veterans pause—what if they experience a flare up or episode of their health conditions while outside Maryland? What if they fall sick on an extended vacation to Florida, Hawaii, or anywhere else in the U.S.?
Now, Veterans planning to travel to a location away from their primary residence can participate in the new Veterans Healthcare Traveling Program. The designated Traveling Veteran Coordinators (TVC) work to ensure that Veterans can travel for extended periods without any disruptions to their medical care, prescription refills, and even prosthetic equipment checks. The TVC workers have replaced the referral care managers, and now the team of coordinators consists of registered nurses, physician assistants, or other licensed clinicians. To participate in this program, Veterans must alert the TVC at their preferred VA facility of their travel plans. The information that the TVC requires includes the dates of travel, a temporary address in the new location, and the local contact information (including a valid phone number).
“My job is to make sure that Veterans who are on extended travel get what they need in a timely manner,” says Loretta Nixon, the TVC for the VA Maryland Health Care System. “I will arrange for the necessary medical services to be scheduled and performed at an alternative VA facility. I also coordinate services so that Veterans do not run out of their medication refills, they continue to receive care for prosthetic devices, or whatever they may need while they are on travel.”
The Veterans Healthcare Traveling Program enables Veterans to receive the same standard of care while traveling even if they are not assigned to a Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) at the alternate VA facility. TVCs at both facilities work together with the PACTs and specialty care providers to coordinate care.
“Communication is the key,” Nixon says. “We send the appropriate patient information to the alternate VA facility, including a temporary address, contact information, care needs, lab and medication orders, referrals, and progress notes. The TVCs at alternate VA facilities work with the non-VA Care Program to coordinate care for traveling Veterans who require medical services not available at the alternate facility.” TVCs also ensure that the care is transitioned back to a Veterans preferred facility PACT or specialist for ongoing care needs when the Veteran returns home.
Veterans traveling unexpectedly should first contact their PACT or specialty care providers to inform them of their medical care issues. Their preferred facility PACT will communicate with their own TVC to begin coordinating care. “By informing us first, the communication between the VA Maryland Health Care System and the alternate VA facility is smoother, making it less time consuming and more convenient to Veterans.”
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