As we honor our military service members this Veterans Day, we take time to reflect on how we can care for these brave individuals in the same way they have cared for our country. One particular issue of concern for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the suicide rate among veterans. Suicide occurs nearly twice as often in veteran populations as the general public, with a rate of 32.0 per 100,000 compared to 17.2 per 100,000 for nonveterans.1 The VA has embarked on a 10-year strategy to end veteran suicide, which includes Mission Daybreak, a grand challenge seeking solutions to this crisis across a variety of focus areas, including technology. At the request of the VA, HealthVerity recently shared how our privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) could help support this valiant mission:
Capturing Veterans Lost to the System
Currently, only 9.6 million out of 19.6 million total veterans are enrolled in the VA healthcare system; meaning only approximately half of veterans receive care through the VA.2 Additionally, in 2018, 63% of the veterans who committed suicide had not received services through the VA within the year prior to their death.1 In order to gain insight into the healthcare journey of veterans not receiving care through the VA, patient data needs to be captured from other data sources.
With the HealthVerity IPGE platform, an integrated technology and real-world data infrastructure based on the foundational elements of Identity, Privacy, Governance and Exchange, VA records could be accurately linked to the nation’s largest healthcare and consumer data ecosystem, enabling interoperability between the VA’s current system and outside data sources, while maintaining privacy.
Recognizing the Risks
With access to HealthVerity’s vast data ecosystem, researchers and VA decision makers would gain insights from more comprehensive patient journeys to inform risk predictions, programs and policies to mitigate the suicide crisis. Researchers could more deeply explore the journey of veterans experiencing challenging behavioral health issues:
- Depression, anxiety or PTSD
- Suicidal ideation
- Psychotherapy or medication management
- Substance use disorder (SUD)
These greater insights could help the VA in better understand this hard-to-find population, providing them with data and tools to create more precise interventions.
No Data Left Behind
In addition to providing the VA greater visibility into veteran populations with behavioral health issues, the HealthVerity IPGE platform could also unlock insights across other clinical or care delivery questions of interest:
- Chronic disease and acute illness
- Prevention and screening services
- Episodic events, such as pregnancies or injuries
- Mortality events
- Social determinants of health
This could fill critical data gaps across other veteran health priorities to help improve the overall health and wellbeing of military service members.
Suicide prevention is a complex problem without a single strategy that can fix it. Providing information on the care veterans receive outside the VA healthcare system could provide greater insight to research, test and develop broader strategies to improve the care of our veterans.
1 Ramchand, Rajeev (2021). Suicide Among Veterans: Veterans’ Issues in Focus. RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PEA1363-1.html.
2 Department of Veterans Affairs (2021). Department of Veterans Affairs Statistics at a Glance. 12/31/2001. https://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/Quickfacts/Stats_at_a_glance_12_31_21.PDF.