FastMed Seizes Opportunity in VA Extension

by Lane Tassin, M.D.

FastMed Urgent Care, one of the nation’s largest urgent care providers and the largest that is Joint Commission-accredited, is honored to be included as part of the network of community providers that now serve veterans, a result of the 2019 urgent care expansion by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The extension of benefits, made possible by the MISSION Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump in 2018, allows community network urgent care clinics to provide care to veterans without prior authorization.

This new change allows FastMed to service the needs of veterans throughout local communities. Before passage of the MISSION Act allowing enrollees to seek medical assistance beyond VA hospitals and clinics, veterans seeking affordable and convenient healthcare services commonly endured long periods of waiting for an available appointment at VA healthcare centers, where wait times have been recorded at 30 days or more. Under the MISSION Act, FastMed visits are now covered when veterans have acute illnesses and injuries such as colds, cough, flu-like symptoms, sore throat, earache, skin infections, wounds, back pain, joint and muscle sprains and other acute healthcare needs. Diagnostic X-rays and many lab tests are also available on-site.

With this change taking place, FastMed has made internal adjustments to better educate both veterans and the general public alike regarding when it’s appropriate to seek care in an urgent care clinic compared to when severe or complicated medical issue should be evaluated and treated in a hospital Emergency Department setting.

While FastMed has added a new patient group to its roster and is now treating more patients than ever before, the clinics are suited to accommodate the needs of this group. FastMed has not needed to alter the physical layout or structure of its 30 clinics located within the Greater Phoenix and Tucson metro areas.

To make this option efficient for both our employees and veterans, FastMed continues to explore and invest in optimal methods for sending veteran patients’ information back to the VA for inclusion in their medical records and to be available to their primary care providers. Additionally, the number of visits at each clinic is continuously monitored and staffing levels are adjusted to optimize the efficiency and flow of the clinics.

Veterans can now visit several urgent care walk-in clinics and hospital EDs for their healthcare needs, significantly reducing their wait times. The aim of increasing access to community providers is to reduce the time veterans wait for acute healthcare by more than half.

Since last June’s extension of the MISSION Act, FastMed has experienced a significant increase in urgent care visits from veteran patients. Veterans, like other patient groups, seek timely access to high-quality healthcare. As this new option of health coverage outside of the VA system becomes more available, FastMed expects to reach an even larger audience of veterans seeking prompt care for non-critical medical conditions in the communities in which it operates.

Lane Tassin, M.D. is regional chief medical officer for FastMed Urgent Care’s western region, which covers Arizona and Texas, since 2018 after six years as regional medical director with FastMed’s Tucson providers.

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