Every news channel is covering the issues that were revealed at the VA – boil it all down, there appears to have been secret “wait-lists” that masked the amount of time Vets waited to receive care so that the numbers looked better. This has potentially led to deaths, misdiagnoses, and also truly ineffective care coordination. Terrible.
Of course, like every other topic, this will become politicized. No one can honestly argue that there are not real problems, at the same time, its an opportunity to hold someone accountable and try to push alternative agendas – neither of which will fix the issue.
So how do we fix it, at least in the short-term?
One of the best, or at worst logical solutions to the problems that I heard, was presented in an interview by Montel Williams on CNN. Apparently he served in the military for 20+ years before his “famous” career and he presented the following solution summarized in my own words: open up all on-base and other active military institution hospitals/clinics to veterans, and make recently returning military medics back on temporary active duty solely to treat veterans in the US at these same, or other facilities. Essentially a “surge” of medical providers.
There are obviously some complexities associated with this approach, but at face value, it makes a lot of sense. You have a highly trained workforce that is capable and familiar with helping military personnel, and you have facilities that have the resources to treat them. Not to mention, it would not drastically change the funding component of the puzzle.
What’s another solution?
Technology. Yes, I am going there. Talk about pushing an agenda. The “situation”, I won’t call it a scandal, that is occurring at the VA is a prime opportunity to assess whether technology can help solve some of the inherent problems.
Let’s take one process in the VA that has not been heavily covered in the news, but plays a tangential role in the issues. Veterans do have the opportunity to go into the private sector for care. When they do, they must be granted an authorization for a referral. Seems straightforward, but the messaging suggests that it is mainly a paper-based process today that is actually extremely burdensome on the veteran. Imagine if we could convert this to an automated process that is highly efficient and drastically decreases the time required for Vets to see private sector doctors – that may help just slightly in lessening the backlog.
It is extremely valid, and necessary, to talk about the very personal nature of this issue as it impacts the lives and health of vets. Concurrently, it is important to recognize that behind such a robust network of clinics, hospitals, facilities and stakeholders, the need for strategic conversations are necessary to drive the best possible capabilities.