Guice: MHS and VA work together to help wounded warriors navigate care system
Dr. Karen Guice, acting assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, addresses the National Academies of Sciences Forum on Aging, Disability, and Independence in Washington, D.C., June 27, 2016. The day-long event fostered dialogue and addressed issues of mutual interest and concern related to aging and disability to the military and civilian organizations.
TWo federal organizations are cooperating more closely than ever to ensure wounded warriors are able to thrive. With the survival rate from battlefield injuries at record levels, coming home with more severe injuries presents its own issues. That’s why the Military Health System and the Department of Veterans Affairs are streamlining the system to make sure veterans, service members and their families are well served as the population ages.
“This causes … challenges for both [the MHS and VA] on how we actually provide care for these individuals we saved on the battlefield, but really want them to become as good as they can be in the constellation of their injuries,” said Dr. Karen Guice, acting assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. “We’re trying to figure out how to get from today to tomorrow.”
Guice made her remarks before the National Academies of Sciences Forum on Aging, Disability and Independence in Washington, D.C., June 27, 2016. The daylong event fostered dialogue and addressed issues of mutual interest and concern to the military and civilian organizations related to aging and disability.
Guice said part of the solution lies in a cooperative partnership between the Department of Defense, VA and the private sector, known as the Interagency Care Coordination Committee (IC3). She said more than 50 programs serve wounded warriors. IC3 helps all agencies better coordinate to solve the physical, mental and emotional problems of those hurt on the battlefield.
“We had patients and families who would tell us, ‘I have literally 300 business cards [from all the different case managers].’ We needed a different model of care, something more integrated across the two departments and integrated across every single transition one of these individuals might make,” said Guice. “The goal of this committee is how we better coordinate the care and manage all these case managers for these families and individuals so they don’t have to.”
In October 2012, DoD and VA formed IC3, creating a culture and resources enabling DoD and VA care coordinators to more seamlessly collaborate and share information to align care. Guice said the past year has seen tremendous strides made toward achieving these goals. She summed up the vision in one statement.
“One mission, one policy, one plan,” said Guice, pointing out the daunting task of trying to get two different federal government agencies to come up with one common plan. “Those of you who have ever had that kind of experience know immediately you get a headache. But we actually did it.”
IC3 gives both the DoD and VA one policy and one plan to get there. That way, individuals have one comprehensive treatment plan that sticks with them wherever they go. Guice said the addition of electronic health records is helping.
“At any point in time, if I’m the lead coordinator and I’m managing a patient and family, I can look and see what was done, who did it, and if anybody dropped the ball and I can hold them accountable,” said Guice. “We can actually look forward and plan out what they need when they get home through all these transitions. That way all the individual and the family have to say is ‘I want to get better, I want to go back to work’ or whatever their goals might be.”
Guice concluded saying it’s important to make sure the families are taken care of as well, ensuring everyone at every level of care has the information they need to give and get the care needed.
“All of these things are possible, and the key enabler to all of it is knowing where you can get services,” said Guice. “It’s not a lack of programs; it’s just not enough awareness of how you get to it.”