Two weeks before the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital controversy dominated headlines, Key-Whitman Eye Center’s Director of Patient Accounting Matt Chapman received a call from the Dallas VA Medical Center.
“The Dallas VA was hoping to expedite eye care services for veterans located in the DFW Metroplex, and they wanted to know if we could help with their patient overflow. We immediately said yes,” says Chapman.
Ralph Taylor, who served 7 years in the Navy during the 1960s, was one of the first veterans referred to Key-Whitman under the current arrangement with the VA. The veteran’s eyesight had deteriorated significantly due to worsening cataracts, so that driving and other daily tasks were becoming a challenge.
Mr. Taylor has always been pleased with the level of care he received at the VA, especially the care he received after a liver transplant he underwent a few years back, but when he needed cataract surgery, the VA couldn’t see him right away.
Mr. Taylor appreciates that the VA arranges timely vision care at Key-Whitman.
“I tried to get an appointment with [the VA], and they were backed up so far. Then the VA called me about this appointment, and I came here. Since then it’s been a marvelous deal,” says Taylor. After his initial consultation and counseling session with Key-Whitman
President and Chief Surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Whitman and Kristen Leaser, COA, Taylor underwent surgery for his first cataract
on June 19, then he returned for the second cataract surgery on his other
eye on July 9.
When the VA called, Key-Whitman was prepared to see the veterans right away. Says Chapman, “Since we had worked with the VA in the past, we had the systems in place to handle any necessary paperwork. Plus, we were already an approved eye care resource, so we could start treating patients immediately.” Between early June and mid-July, the VA has referred more than 100 veterans to Key-Whitman for eye care services.
According to Dr. Whitman, “The relationship between the VA and Key-Whitman is a win for everyone concerned. The veterans get excellent care in a timely manner. We are well-prepared to take on the overflow, and every doctor and staff member here considers it an honor to be able to take care of our veterans.”
Many of the veterans who come to Key-Whitman need to be treated right away, before their conditions worsen, especially those who need cataract surgery, glaucoma treatment or macular degeneration eye services. Fortunately, the Key-Whitman doctors, staff and facilities are well equipped to handle this influx of patients. “We have the capacity to treat even more veterans, when the VA is ready to send them our way,” Dr. Whitman says.
Veterans like Mr. Taylor can count on Key-Whitman for the highest quality of eye care and vision treatment, within weeks of a VA referral. The state-of-the-art technology and efficiencies that Key-Whitman has put in place make this possible.
Unlike some other eye care providers, Key-Whitman provides most adult eye care services, diagnostics, treatments and surgeries under one roof. Other providers send patients to offsite surgery centers, where scheduling is typically out of the surgeon’s control. This extends the time necessary for treatment and can be inconvenient for the patient.
Says Dr. Whitman, “We have a fully certified surgery center here, just like a hospital, as well as the latest in diagnostic instruments and instruments to perform diagnostic procedures, lasers and more – it’s leading edge. Patients often come to us for that reason.”
Many of the veterans recently referred to Key-Whitman need to see a cataract surgeon or arrange for glaucoma treatment. Like most patients, they don’t really know much about their eye conditions, what causes them and how they can be treated. That can be pretty scary for patients. At Key-Whitman, the doctor and staff spend time talking with the patient and a counselor walks them through the condition and procedure using charts, videos and other tools.
“With Mr. Taylor, we explained how cataracts occur as a normal part of the aging process, and that we remove the old lens and replace it with a lens implant,” says Dr. Whitman. “This really demystifies the condition and surgery for the patient. Plus when we tell them they won’t feel anything during the procedure, that usually puts their minds at ease,” he adds.
According to Mr. Taylor, the team at Key-Whitman “put all of my fears aside. When I got the right [eye] done, I said this is easy, everything is so fast.” While Mr. Taylor is happy with the care he has received at the VA, he says he would encourage other veterans to seek eye care services at Key-Whitman, because it’s “a completely different experience … [you’re] not dealing with such large things, it’s more individualized and personal.”
When asked what he enjoys most after his cataract surgery, Taylors smiles, and says, “Camping, taking in the night sky … it’s just nice to see individual leaves, that’s pretty neat.”
Mr. Taylor is enjoying his new vision and is seeing 20/20 in both eyes since his cataract procedure at Key-Whitman, made possible by the VA.
“It is an honor for us to serve them”
For the doctors, counselors and other Key-Whitman staff, Dr. Whitman says, “Veterans hold a special place in my heart, and the people on our staff feel the same way. While it was an honor for them to serve, it is an honor for us to serve them.”