VAMC in 2012: Change a constant

Change, it seems, was a constant at the local VA medical center in 2012, starting with its name.In January, the hospital officially changed its name to the George H. O'Brien Jr. VA Medical Center — in honor of the Big Spring native who received the Medal of Honor during the Korean War — and it seemed something new was popping up at the facility all the time after that.“It was the external event which kicked off a lot of change here,” said Jamie Park, executive assistant to the medical center director.Most of the changes were made with modernizing, personalizing or improving access to services for the 16,000 veterans who live in the VAMC's catchment area.Among the more noteworthy events for the West Texas VA in 2012 were:• Expansion of the system's outpatient clinic in Abilene. “Not only did we expand our space there, but we are now able to provide more specialized services to our veterans in that area,” Park said, citing audiology, ophthalmology, pharmacy and physical training as the most notable improvements.While officials were finishing up their work in the Abilene clinic, they laid the groundwork for expansion of services in the Midland/Odessa area, as well. Park estimated that work will completed by the end of 2013.Plans also call for similar expansion in San Angelo, she said.• Home-Based Primary Care is a program in which a team of healthcare professionals will visit veterans in their homes to address their needs, instead of forcing the patient to come to the hospital.“We've seen significant growth in this program,” Park said. “The goal is to help keep people out of the hospital or an institutional setting.”• Telehelp — this program allows veterans to have access to specialized care not normally provided at the Big Spring facility, Park said. Patients can come into the VAMC and have video consultations with physicians in specialties ranging from mental health to dietary and nutrition to dermatology. They can even have remote eye exams during the video conferences.• My Healthy Veteran — this is a web-based program which allows veterans to access their appointment schedules, lab results and order refills for their prescriptions, as well as message back and forth with healthcare providers.• PACT (Patient-Aligned Care Team) targets veterans in the further reaches of the VAMC's 33-county service area who don't have the ability to travel to the hospital. Instead, teams of healthcare professionals travel to the veterans' home towns.“The goal is to allow veterans in those areas to have the same sort of traditional long-term relationship with a doctor or a nurse that other patients have,” Park said.Another welcomed change at the VAMC was the lack of change, so to speak, at the top: For the first time in more than four years, the top four leadership positions at the hospital — director, associate director, chief of staff and associate director for nursing — were staffed, Park said.