On Wednesday, July 16th, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing entitled “Creating Efficiency through Comparison: An Evaluation of Private Sector Best Practices and the VA Health Care System.” Witnesses from the private sector shared what has worked best for them and how those experiences could be translated to the Veterans’ Health Administration. Some of their suggestions included increasing the facilities’ hours, give physicians more input, and collaborating more with the private sector facilities to gain space without extra leasing.
The witnesses included Richard J. Umbdenstock, FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Hospital Association, Monte D. Brown M.D., Vice President for Administration and Secretary, Duke University School of Medicine; Daniel F. Evans Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Indiana University Health; Ruton Stacey PhD, FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer, Fairview Health Services; and Quinton D. Studer, Founder, Studer Group, Inc.
Rep. Takano asked about the general shortage of behavioral health care providers and whether funding more medical residencies at the VA would help the situation. Mr. Umbdenstock explained that it is important to strategically place residencies to encourage physicians to stay in underserved areas and specialties. Additionally, the health system has “to integrate behavioral health and primary care into one practice and see that patient who has multiple conditions at the same time.” Mr. Umbdenstock and Mr. Brown both added that the problem is more than just physicians and it is important to pull more nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, as well.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) asked the witnesses whether the VHA should focus on war-related injuries and provide service in those specialties, leaving other general care to outside providers. Mr. Evans said that he sees capacity in the private sector for the VA to capitalize on and wondered “why can’t the VA betheplace to go for TBI.” On the flipside, Mr. Umbdenstock cautioned that the private sector would need to know what they would be picking up, because so few patients come in with just one condition when they present anymore. Dr. Brown thinks that there needs to be more of a hybrid system and collaboration between the VA and the private sector, because the VA needs to figure out what is the most efficient use of resources to serve Veterans.