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Former "Medics" helping VA in Cleveland

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    Posted: 14 Mar 2016 at 3:43pm

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Iraq vet fitted a blood-pressure wrap around the Vietnam vet's arm, checked the gauge and announced, "Nice blood pressure today. Right in the range we want."

Andrew Bisbee, a former Army medic, then checked his patient's heart, throat and swollen feet. "I know I'm not a spring chicken anymore," said the patient, Gerald Bowles, 65, of Cleveland. Bisbee, 28, grinned at the patient he calls "Mr. G," and told him, "Hey, I hope I look half as good as you when I'm older. I hope I look a quarter as good."

The recent exam took place in Bowles' apartment in Cleveland, where Bisbee also checked his patient's other vital signs, medical appointments schedule and stock of medications, taking notes he would pass along to a team of doctors and nurses at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC).

Some folks might have figured that home medical visits long since went the way of rotary phones and typewriters. But for the past two years, a pilot project at the VAMC has utilized the experience of former military medics to improve the health care of area vets at home.

These "patient navigators" guide veterans through a home-treatment program that offers such services as instruction on medication management, health coaching, basic medical testing and coordination of care with VA hospital resources.

VA pilot program brings health care to patient's door A pilot project at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center utilizes former military medics to make house calls to chronically ill patients in an effort to both trim health costs and give medics a way to utilize skills learned in the service.

"The idea is that there's a very small portion of patients that account for health care costs, and home visits can be a really important part of helping people to stay well and out of the hospitals," said Dr. Brook Watts, the Cleveland VAMC chief quality officer who applied for a $3 million VA grant for the four-year program.

Watts said that nationally about one percent of patients -- largely those with chronic diseases "at high risk for bad outcomes" -- represent 20 percent of health care costs. Nearly 20 percent of the VA patients in this area fall into that high-risk/high-cost group, she added.

A second goal of the program is to provide the opportunity for former military medics to use their expertise in the civilian world. "Thousands of former military medics and corpsmen leave the military each year and can't get jobs in the private sector," Watts said. "What we're trying to do here is meet the needs of our health care system and at the same time provide much-needed jobs for veterans, leveraging the skills that they have," she added. "It's a win-win."

Currently two patient-navigators -- who have received 240 hours of training and are supervised by a nurse -- handle 200 patients within a 25-mile radius of the VA hospital near University Circle. The former medics also are part of a team that includes a physician, nurse practitioner, psychologist and social worker.

(In another program, three other former medics have been working in the hospital's emergency room for the past four years.)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dr. Stan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2016 at 5:14pm
EXCELLENT!!  Sounds like a program that ought to be expanded to other VA hospitals. ClapThumbs Up

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