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By bringing together data surrounding a problem like suicide, the VA can get a fuller picture for patient care that clinicians can use internally.
From the start of VA Secretary David Shulkin’s tenure in February, the Department of Veterans Affairs has mounted an aggressive agenda to improve services for veterans. Suicide prevention is one of Shulkin's initiatives to bring better care to the health care provider level.
“We are bringing together various suicide issues under one umbrella and linking them together … so we can provide clinicians with risk factors for patients at the point of care,” Jack Bates, director of the VA’s business intelligence service line, said during a meeting with reporters at the Oct. 17 Microsoft Government Cloud Forum.
By bringing together issues surrounding a problem like suicide, the VA can get a fuller picture for patient care that clinicians can use internally. One area of interest is predicting which individuals are likely to act on their suicidal thoughts, but to make such a program scalable would require sophisticated models and advanced processing power.
One of the VA’s more visible efforts to expand services is its Access to Care tool. The website allows veterans to compare VA facilities to local hospitals, nursing homes and outpatient clinics.
While Bates thinks there are “good reasons” for veterans to see a community provider, they would still need to bring their VA records with them or have them electronically transferred. The VA ultimately wants to be able to transfer records through health information exchanges similar to those used by commercial health care practices.
“[Through] the health information exchange paradigm, the community care provider will be connected, with the VA and they are sharing information dynamically,” Bates said.
The public facing components of the Access to Care site are dedicated to helping veterans determine the best paths to getting needed services.
“We have been live for roughly 188 days and have made 750 modifications and additions to the site,” Bates said. “The most recent [release] was about looking at all of our providers and their credentials to continuously empower the veteran to make informed choices about their healthcare.”