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NEWS | May 14, 2014

VA-DOD joint venture wins Federal Executive Team Award

By Tonya Lobbestael Ralph H. Johnson Veteran's Hospital public affairs

The Lowcountry Federal Healthcare Alliance won the Federal Employee of the Year Team Award May 13, 2014, for its collaboration to provide shared health care services to veterans and Department of Defense beneficiaries, improving access, continuity of care and cost efficiencies for care delivery. The award is sponsored by the Greater Charleston Area Federal Executive Association

The Lowcountry Federal Health Alliance is one of only 12 VA-DOD Joint Venture Sites in the U.S. This voluntary partnership, started in 2006, was established voluntarily by Naval Health Clinic Charleston, Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, the 628th Medical Group and Naval Hospital Beaufort. The partner organizations have completed multiple Joint Incentive Fund projects that have improved access for patient care and resulted in significant cost savings and cost avoidances for the government. These include a joint Optometry and Ophthalmology Clinic at Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station that provided more than 10,000 episodes of care for veterans, active duty, dependents and military retirees, yielding a cost avoidance of more than $ 1 million so far, and two mobile MRI units located at Naval Health Clinic Charleston and Naval Hospital Beaufort. LFHA is currently implementing two more Joint Incentive Fund projects - a shared physical therapy clinic at Naval Health Clinic Charleston, and a shared dermatology clinic at Naval Hospital Beaufort.

"We are incredibly proud of our track record for successful collaborations which has been recognized by both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. And we are especially proud to be serving our heroes who have sacrificed so much for our freedom," said Navy Capt. Marvin Jones, Naval Health Clinic Charleston commanding officer, and LFHA chairman.

VA also has two clinics co-located with DOD. VA's Goose Creek clinic is co-located with Naval Health Clinic Charleston. There, VA and Navy staff work side-by-side in the lab, and services such as radiology and pharmacy provide service to both VA and DOD patients. VA's Beaufort clinic is co-located with Naval Hospital Beaufort. Similar services are shared for all patients there too.

"Our VA-DOD partnership benefits veteran and DOD patients in so many ways," said Scott Isaacks, Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center interim director. "Working together we are able to provide the specialty care they need closer to home while saving taxpayer dollars, improving continuity of patient and family centered care and easing the transition from active duty to veteran status."

LFHA also partners to provide shared orthopedics, cardiology and audiology services. DOD and VA staff also train together to maintain professional proficiencies.
"Our LFHA team is setting the standard for working together to improve patient care," said Col. Judith Hughes, 628th Medical Group commander. "The bottom line is important, but it's really all about the patients and making sure they have the best care and the best access to that care right here in our federal community."

The Lowcountry Federal Healthcare Alliance partnership was made possible by the National Defense Authorization Act 2003, Section 721, which authorized the Department of Defense and the VA Health Care Sharing Incentive Fund. The purpose of this act was to provide funding that allowed various local, regional and national entities to coordinate and share health care resources. The purpose of the alliance is to develop mutually beneficial medical service sharing agreements that improve access to quality and cost-effective health care for all of their beneficiaries. The alliance was recognized as a DOD/VA Joint Venture site in 2012.