Commentary

6 Things You Need To Know About Veterans, Healthcare In 2017

We are on the precipice of some of the most profound changes in veteran healthcare since the Veterans Administration was elevated to a cabinet position in 1989.

Pent-up reforms needed at the VA combined with a new Administration have set conditions for massive change. Only 1 of 4 veterans receives healthcare at the VA. So the veteran healthcare conversation must include non-VA alternatives as, increasingly, veterans are combining private healthcare with the VA.

Healthcare businesses and government will soon be making very important decisions with the potential to improve healthcare for the 23 million military and veterans plus their families.  A two-part study just released, Veterans: A Significant Force In The New Health Economy, provides some insights needed for veteran-centric decisions.  As you consider 2017, here are six things you should know about veterans and healthcare.

1. The latent veteran healthcare demand

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While the veteran population slowly decreases, the number of veteran patients at the VA is increasing. Among elderly Americans, 1 in 3 males is a veteran. As the cost of their care increases, many veterans are turning back to the VA for care, because almost two-thirds (63%) state their chronic illness was caused by their military service. In fact, the well-publicized VA claim backlog was less a function of Iraq/ Afghanistan veterans, but instead Vietnam veterans filing claims to gain healthcare. 

2. Veterans have incidence of certain chronic conditions with a much higher index versus the general American population.

Veterans are three times as likely to have diabetes. Veterans index 421 to have headaches compared to the general population. Compared to the average American veterans index at 416 for having Congestive Heart Failure. The $238 billion industry treating this condition might consider a “shadow target” targeting veterans with beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics.

3. Veterans have more healthcare options, which means they can get products and services through different means.

As veteran healthcare needs continue to increase, more veterans will take advantage of their VA options. But they won’t give up their non-VA care. Veterans will look to offset costs or seek specialists where VA care is strongest. Right now, veterans have a family physician through Blue Cross, see a specialist through the VA, and get VA prescriptions filled at Walgreens, Walmart or the VA. The key will be to keep this experience streamlined for veteran patients to know their options.

4. Veterans have fundamentally different patient journeys.

One study, Veterans: A Significant Force In The New Health Economy, shows that veterans have different patient journeys than the average American. More options for care plus technology, which has enabled greater access to health-related information, have shaped these patient journeys. This has significant implications on diagnosis and treatment, so healthcare providers and advertisers meet veterans where they are at. These veteran patient journeys become the blueprint for successful communications and treatment for veterans.

5. Outsourcing of VA Healthcare is a game-changer

Veterans Choice, the current vehicle enabling VA care outsourcing, allows veterans to go to local providers if they are greater than 30 miles from a VA facility or an appointment is greater than 30 days away. The program has had good success, especially in the areas of specialists (urologists, podiatrists, etc.). So, it may be a safe assumption that some version of Veterans Choice will continue. In addition, the new Administration has already expressed the intent to “ensure our veterans get the care they need wherever and whenever they need it. No more long drives. No more waiting backlogs. No more excessive red tape. Just the care and support they earned with their service to our country.” 

6. To treat veteran patients, you have to know how to reach them.

Veterans are all around us but more camouflaged than ever. Targetable patient profiles help this, but you need to be empowered with veteran insights and military media expertise to reach veterans. In addition to healthcare professionals, technology and veteran communities, word of mouth is more relevant among veterans.

5 comments about "6 Things You Need To Know About Veterans, Healthcare In 2017".
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  1. Alan Westendal from West End Communications/Consul, December 20, 2016 at 1:24 p.m.

    It appears that the studies referenced in this essay were written by the author of the essay, or by folks in his company, which company seems to be an ad shop specializing in reaching veterans.  It seems a bit disingenuous to conceal this. 

  2. Tom Aiello from MARCH, LLC, December 20, 2016 at 1:49 p.m.

    Alan: That was included at the end of the article and removed editorially.  That said, we're a mission-based organization focused on "Improving the lives of military and veteran families."  We're proud of the work we do with do in support of this community.  I can assure you there was no mal intent, and will request that get added back in the piece.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 20, 2016 at 2:55 p.m.

    How about income ? I understand that military families fall in the lower income levels without private insurance to cover them. With the new administration, health care costs will rise in untold levels, science, research and education will either be cut drastically or cut altogether, and so many other additional outreach programs will be gone due to lack of support. The VA will have more problems, sadly. When a veteran does reach a VA Hosital, they come in without socks or extra clothers which the government does not supply and dependent upon donations. Many veterans either do not have family or they are too far to bring them supplies they need. The same or worse goes for hospice patients and homeless veterans. 

  4. Rene' Campos from Military Officers Association of America replied, December 20, 2016 at 3:17 p.m.

    Please share a link to the study. I am interested in learning more. Thank you.

  5. Tom Aiello from MARCH, LLC replied, December 21, 2016 at 7:43 a.m.

    Paula: The research shows the full range of income for the military veteran population, with different healthcare options (VA, private, non-profit). The bigger opportunity is better helping veterans connect to their best option to streamline healthcare and get them better, faster care. To your point, we have to factor in those high-risk veterans to ensure they do not fall between the cracks... and in addressing their needs, there will be gains made in care for all veterans.

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