With the Iraq War officially ended and Afghanistan scheduled to pull back by 2014, scores of service members are beginning to head home. In an article in the August edition of HealthcareITNews, Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric K. Shineski stated, “As the tide of war recedes, we have the opportunity and responsibility to anticipate the needs of returning veterans.” In an effort to improve quality and access to care, a range of health IT initiatives – EHRs and PHRS, as well as mobile health and wellness apps – are being tested and implemented to deliver a better return home.
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) 90 percent of seriously wounded military soldiers are surviving and coming home to seek treatment. Also, out of the nearly 2 million service members sent to Afghanistan or Iraq (or both) approximately 20 percent of those returning home will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. Under Skineski’s leadership, the VA has been making progress to update and develop their operations to better serve this massive influx of patients ranging in medical and mental needs.
One way the VA has been making strides in advancing medical care is through a new electronic health record system. EHRs has been aiding with the difficult effort of helping returning veterans in far-spread corners of the country, allowing doctors to share information with one another electronically. Continuing with electronic healthcare, the VA has been focusing a lot on telemedicine, which will deploy video conferencing equipment to rural areas.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has also seen success with mobile apps. After seeing mobile apps pooled into the ever-changing healthcare technology wave, apps for helping returning veterans were given a try. Over 50,000 people since May have downloaded the VA’s PTSD Coach mobile app, which allows tracking of symptoms and tips for handling them.
With so many soldiers coming home, with an array of injuries now is the perfect time to take the health IT initiatives, to better care for the returning veterans.