It’s time the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) feels a sense of urgency regarding improving veterans’ health care services. That was Alabama 2nd District U.S. Rep. Martha Roby‘s message to the VA on Wednesday.
“My frustration here is that there does not seem to be an urgency. Meanwhile, we have veterans who are suffering,” Roby said during a Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee in a hearing regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs’ electronic health record modernization.
Roby, who has long been a vocal advocate for improving veterans’ health care services, highlighted the problems veterans in Central Alabama face when outside medical care providers have difficulty accessing their medical records and asked the hearing witnesses how the VA will improve the process of exchanging this information for outside providers.
“How is the VA going to handle the exchange of health record information when we are utilizing outside providers?,” she asked. “This has been a huge issue in Central Alabama. Not only do we not have sufficient personnel to handle caring for the veteran within the VA, but we are also having a hard time recruiting outside providers because the VA constantly make it difficult to exchange medical records.
Roby concluded, “If we are pushing our veterans to community care because we do not have the services inside the VA, then somebody needs to feel the urgency to get this done.”
Watch Roby below:
The full text of Roby’s remarks below.
Thank you all for being here today. I think we can all agree that we’re here to make sure veterans are getting access to the best care we can give them in a timely fashion, and one of the issues veterans face when they go into the VA is that there may not be services offered in that brick and mortar facility to support the care they need.
So, we use non-VA, outside providers to treat our veterans. As we are having this discussion about medical records, I’d like to ask: How is the VA going to handle the exchange of health record information when we are utilizing outside providers?
This has been a huge problem in VISN 7, in the Central Alabama VA Health System. Not only do we not have sufficient personnel to handle caring for the veteran within the brick and mortar VA, but we are also having a hard time recruiting outside providers. They want to serve the veteran, and they want to provide medical care, but the VA constantly makes it difficult for the provider, and part of that deals with the exchange of medical records.
I want to know how that issue fits into this equation. How are you going to make it easier, through data sharing, for the outside providers to integrate?
The reality is, particularly in mental health care, the VA does not have the specialists necessary to care for veterans.
When we have a veteran that we cannot care for inside the VA and we send them out into the community, there is a huge responsibility for those outside providers to communicate as it relates to the medical record itself.
There is a lot of frustration from these outside providers that want to be community partners. This medical record exchange issue is a roadblock to their ability to provide the outside care.
My frustration here is that there does not seem to be an urgency. I understand these things take time, but meanwhile, we have veterans who are suffering and not receiving the care they need. That is why I bring up the issue of outside providers and medical records. If we are pushing our veterans to community care because we don’t have the services inside the VA, then somebody has to feel the urgency to get this done.