In my eight years as a dietitian at the Milwaukee VAMC I have witnessed the integration of countless directives, programs and polices into our health care system. None have filled me with such immense pride, nor been so inspiring as primary care’s newest movement, the Patient Aligned Care Team. Based on the Patient Centered Medical Home Model, PACT is sweeping the nation with innovative practice redesign, increased access to care, improvements in care management and superior care coordination for in all Veteran’s Affairs Medical Centers.
Veterans are at the center of PACT along with their families and caregivers. By being the heart of each PACT, Veterans are active participants in their health care management. This ensures that the wants, needs and preference of each individual are respected. Each Veteran will be assigned to a core team of health care professionals called a teamlet. The teamlets are comprised of a primary care provider, a nurse who serves as the care manager, a clinical associate, and an administrative clerk. Veterans will get to know their team members as individuals by working together with the same health care team. This bonding can result in improved communication and cooperation toward meetings the Veteran’s health/wellness goals.
Along with the teamlet, every Veteran may also receive assistance with meeting their goals and needs from integrated team members. Dietitians, social workers, pharmacists, mental health practitioners, specialists, and non-VA health care professionals work together with each Veteran to coordinate a variety of health care resources.
Dietitians are a great fit for every PACT team because nutrition counseling naturally involves the Veteran in his/her own care. The PACT dietitian can improve Veterans’ health and quality of life by empowering them to prevent and better manage their chronic diseases and conditions; creating nutrition strategies tailored to individual progress and nutrition needs; and building an access system designed to provide the Veteran nutritional intervention at desired time of service. If you are a Veteran with nutrition questions, ask your PACT Dietitian and he/she will be there to help. If you are a PACT team member and you are not familiar with your PACT dietitian or you are unfamiliar with nutrition interventions available to your Veterans, we are also here for you.
Amy Thompto has been a dietitian at the Milwaukee VA hospital for eight years. She completed her masters degree in 2009 and has since served on many National committees including ALS Task Force and Traveling team of the Nutrition and Food Service PACT Committee.