Groceries, maybe a new shirt, and now some veterans can fit in some shopping at their next health care visit. In a pilot project, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is partnering with Walmart to offer veterans easy access to health care at 5 sites.
The VA-led ATLAS (Accessing telehealth through local area stations) program is part of the VA Anywhere to Anywhere telehealth initiative, which aims to provide care to veterans no matter where they live. Other telehealth pilot sites are in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa. In addition to Walmart, ATLAS sites are located at American Legion posts and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts.
The local VA facility associated with the ATLAS site determines which clinical services the site offers. The health care services do not require hands-on exams. Clinical services may include, for instance, primary care, mental health counseling, clinical pharmacy, nutrition services, and social work. On-site attendants provide information, help the veterans get started, troubleshoot technical issues, and clean the space between appointments. Walmart donated equipment and space, where veterans can meet with a VA provider in a private room via video technology.
Last year, nearly 500,000 veterans logged > 1.3 million VA video telehealth encounters. It is the “way of the future,” says VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Veterans need the expansion of choice, and this partnership is vital to affording them convenient access to VA health care services where they live.”
Daryl Risinger, Chief Growth Officer for Walmart US Health and Wellness, is a veteran of the Air Force, and has a son and son-in-law serving. He says, “I know firsthand how important support and access is for our military, especially when it comes to health care. …This is another way we are helping our communities live better.”
For a veteran to attend an appointment at an ATLAS site, the site must be associated with the VA Medical Center where the veteran is enrolled. Family members who receive care through the VA can also visit ATLAS sites for select appointments.