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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Medical Center Offers New Patient Orientation Clinic

September 3, 2003

Houston VA Medical Center Offers New Patient Orientation Clinic

Released: 2003/09/03

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At a recent New Patient Orientation Clinic, veteran Felix Sivcoski asks staff member Melody Miles a question about his appointment letter. This new two-hour training class covers topics ranging from HVAMC Prime Care services and co-payment and insurance information to prescriptions and refills, and the nursing telephone triage line called VA Network Telecare.

photo by Bobbi D. Gruner, HVAMC Public Affairs Officer


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"One unique aspect of the New Patient Orientation Clinic is that each veteran receives a copy of their first primary care provider clinic visit appointment letter and has an opportunity to clarify and ask questions about the appointment during this class. When veterans require assistance, for instance, with either scheduling their next clinic visit or obtaining a new VA identification card, the staff at the New Patient Orientation Clinic solves the issue right there, right then," said Paulette Russell-Wilson, Ph.D., R.N., one of the key coordinators of the New Patient Orientation Clinic. Above, Russell-Wilson welcomes over 80 participants to a recent class.

photo by Bobbi D. Gruner, HVAMC Public Affairs Officer

HOUSTON, TX - "At times, the VA can be a jigsaw puzzle of a polar bear in a snowstorm, and I'm trying to put the pieces together. I think the information I learned from this class will help me make sense of things," said a veteran who recently attended the Houston VA Medical Center (HVAMC) New Patient Orientation Clinic.

At nearly three million square feet, six stories, four exterior sections, and four atriums, the HVAMC is an impressive and intimidating structure for any visitor. Add to that, the sometimes, confusing array of VA medical benefits and services, any veteran could understandably become frustrated.

HVAMC management realized the severity of situation after examining veteran satisfaction scores and veterans' comments and complaints. A committee was quickly formed to find answers to the problem.

The solution? Start-up of a new two-hour training class with topics ranging from HVAMC Prime Care services, co-payment and insurance information, inpatient care services, and social work programs to prescriptions and refills, the 24-hour, seven-day a week nursing telephone triage line called VA Network Telecare, and the Patient Education Resource Center.

With the first class on July 9, 2003, the HVAMC New Patient Orientation Clinic is held twice monthly from 8 a.m. to 9:50 a.m. in the HVAMC 4th Floor Auditorium. While most attendees receive an "invitation" in the mail, walk-ins are also welcome to attend.

So far, each class averages just over 80 participants.

At the registration desk, each veteran receives a tote bag, a refrigerator magnet with the VA Network Telecare number on it, and a personal health journal. The journal is already packed with valuable information about such topics as food and drug interactions, VA benefits, patient rights and responsibilities, and common laboratory tests. The HVAMC Veteran Information Packet (VIP) is also included in the journal. The VIP contains information about the VA enrollment process, the eligibility criteria, how to make or cancel appointments, how to get prescriptions refilled, and how to find your way around the HVAMC.

Wrapping up each session, Charles Wright, Ph.D., HVAMC preventive medicine coordinator, asks veterans to complete a preventive medicine-screening questionnaire. He also provides initial smoking counseling and offers several immunizations. The preventive medicine section clerks on site enter participants' preventive medicine information into their individual HVAMC electronic medical record, all in preparation for the veteran's first HVAMC doctor appointment.

Finally, veterans are also invited on a tour of the HVAMC with stops at X-ray, the Prime Care Clinics, the blood laboratory, the outpatient pharmacy, and the Canteen.

Feedback from veterans has been overwhelmingly positive, but already, class organizers have taken several veteran suggestions and implemented them to provide more what the audience wants.

"One unique aspect of the New Patient Orientation Clinic is that each veteran receives a copy of their first primary care provider clinic visit appointment letter and has an opportunity to clarify and ask questions about the appointment during this class. When veterans require assistance, for instance, with either scheduling their next clinic visit or obtaining a new VA identification card, the staff at the New Patient Orientation Clinic solves the issue right there, right then," said Paulette Russell-Wilson, Ph.D., R.N., one of the key coordinators of the New Patient Orientation Clinic.

If you would like more information about the next New Patient Orientation Clinic at the HVAMC, call (713) 794-8985 or toll-free 1-800-639-5137.

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Point of Contact: VHAHOU Public Affairs

04/21/04 08:25