“WHAT CAN WE DO?”
“What can we do?” For Dr. Lewis, the question brought to mind an incident she’d carried with her since her days as a family medicine intern thirty years earlier at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. She was routinely discharging a vet admitted with a heart condition when she said to the man, “After your discharge tomorrow, you will need to make an appointment with your doctor for your follow up care.” The color drained from the man’s face as he said, “What do you mean? They promised to take care of me.” She had thought about that moment many times since.
Currently, the one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare leaves vulnerable patient populations under-served, with a higher rate of sub-optimal outcomes. Our nation’s 23 million veterans, Reserves, and National Guard stand out as a population that warrants optimal care, but faces significant hurdles in receiving it. As a 2018 RAND Corporation study states: “Veterans represent a clinically complex population, experiencing higher rates of suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, diabetes, hearing loss, and cancer.” In addition:
- 79% of Gulf War Era veterans report multiple chronic diseases.
- Male veterans, ages 45-64, are significantly more likely than non-veterans to suffer from two or more chronic health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma and kidney disease.
- Veterans experience a higher prevalence of pain and more severe pain than non-veterans.
Nine out of ten veterans currently receive some level of healthcare in the private sector and more than seven in ten receive ALL healthcare from private healthcare facilities, which are woefully unprepared to diagnose and treat them. This unpreparedness conveys to a loss in patient/provider communications.
“When hospitals, health systems, and clinics are committed to educating themselves about the specifics of Veteran Health, they significantly increase the probability of a Veteran being diagnosed correctly,” said Ron Steptoe, CEO of Warrior Centric Health. “This leads to lower readmission rates, lower costs, better clinical outcomes, and higher patient satisfaction ratings. This is good for the hospital, the patient, their family, and this nation.”
In the article, Dr. Lewis says that healthcare has lost its personal touch and this is heavily pronounced in vulnerable populations – and the patients in those populations who need personalized care. She and Steptoe worked to bridge the void between veterans and healthcare in the civilian setting – starting with cultural comprehension.
“One of the ways in which we looked at talking about cultural competence is by demonstrating what it means within a subpopulation of people, being veterans,” Dr. Lewis said. “People assume they’re all the same. Even the branches are all different subpopulations of patients. The way you would address any of them on any disease is dependent on that distinction, and how they will respond to your questioning, and what they will tell you as a result of that.”
When the 2008 RAND Corporation report, Invisible Wounds of War, was released, Warrior Centric Health spent eight years researching and developing veteran health solutions with the Department of Defense. The result was a comprehensive Warrior Centric Health® Education & Training program, the cornerstone of the Warrior Centric Solution Suite®. A healthcare facility, provider or support staff that achieves competency through the WCH program can be identified as an Authorized Warrior Centric Health Facility®, Recognized Warrior Centric Health Providers® or Recognized Warrior Centric Health Champions®, respectively. These designations assure veterans and family members their unique healthcare needs will be met.
Warrior Centric Health® (WCH) is the nation’s first commercial health equity solutions provider. WCH enables healthcare providers and institutions to provide better care for vulnerable populations – such as veterans and their families – who share unique health and wellness issues.