By Paralyzed Veterans of America, Special for USDR
Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) expressed concern that the building blocks to VA healthcare reform may be getting lost in the headlines as Congressional hearings continue this week.
Following a recent announcement by Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin that he’d invoked a “public interest” exception to federal contracting rules to select Cerner Corp., without competitive bidding, to facilitate the expeditious design of a new VA health record management system, Paralyzed Veterans was optimistic that this long awaited data integration was on the horizon. However, as more political boundaries are drawn this week, the organization issued a reminder about the fundamentals of change:
“Paralyzed Veterans of America believes Cerner Corp. holds the key to saving the lives of disabled veterans in the future, and doesn’t want it waylaid by political posturing about the bigger healthcare debate,” said Sherman Gillums, executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “When Secretary Shulkin announced the Cerner contract last month, it was clearly the right decision for veteran advocates. As the Department of Defense (DoD) has already secured the services of Cerner Corp. for the same purpose, it comes at a time when the expansion of VA care in the community is likely to present more coordination issues.”
According to Pew Research Center data, one in 10 veterans today suffered severe injury in service, with 75 percent occurring in armed conflict. Many of these veterans receive acute treatment and rehabilitation for complex conditions through a number of providers, such as military treatment facilities and VA hospitals while on active duty. Paralyzed Veterans has maintained that the successful transition from service includes the documentation and transfer of critical information related to drug prescriptions, mental health care, past treatment protocols attempted, and other relevant patient data.
Secretary David Shulkin has stated that bringing on Cerner Corp. will result in all patient data “residing in one common system that will enable seamless care between the departments” as service members leave the military and transition to the VA health care system. While the details on how exactly how and when the new system will be built and implemented, according to VA officials, it ends a stagnation in efforts that began as far back as 1988 to achieve interoperability goals and provide universal access to veteran health records.
“It was a major disappointment to hear that VA and the DoD could not find a path toward the creation of a fully integrated electronic health record system in 2013, and that failure cost taxpayers 4 years and $1 billion for something that would ultimately never materialize,” asserted Gillums. “More alarmingly, it added to the cost of war by failing to optimize healthcare coordination for severely disabled service members transitioning to VA. We don’t want to see the delays continue.”
“When doctors, pathologists, and clinical laboratories face barriers to accessing a patient’s complete medical history in a timely manner, precious time is wasted trying treatment protocols that have already proven ineffective,” he continued. “Members of Paralyzed Veterans of America will be well-served by Cerner’s MHS Genesis System, once implemented in VA, as it makes treating complex conditions more efficient through the direct exchange of medical information between VA medical centers and DoD treatment facilities. Time is often of the essence in these complex cases, and these efficiencies will save costs and, more importantly, lives.”
“And it will be up to Congress to ensure this large-scale, multi-year project remains adequately resourced so that veterans with spinal cord injuries, polytrauma, and traumatic brain injury receive the best quality coordinated healthcare they need and deserve,” Gillums concluded.
About Paralyzed Veterans
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For 70 years, we have ensured that veterans have received the benefits earned through their service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.
As a partner for life, Paralyzed Veterans also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation and advocates for veterans and all people with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (pva.org).
SOURCE Paralyzed Veterans of America