HealthShare Referral Manager: A Comprehensive Tool to Streamline Healthcare for Veterans in our Community

By Margaret Whelehan

If you or someone you know has served in the armed forces, you are likely familiar with the vital role that the Veterans Healthcare Administration plays in the lives of our active and veteran military members. RAWNY has always been happy to care for veterans upon referral for vitreoretinal conditions, however we have recently taken a more active role in our veterans’ care by officially joining the VA’s Community Care Network of Providers (CCN). The CCN partners with local VA health facilities to coordinate care with specialists such as the physicians at RAWNY.  As part of this network, we have recently started to utilize an application called the HealthShare Referral Manager (HSRM); a secure, online platform that facilitates the exchange of medical information between us as a community provider, and the VA clinic from which the veteran has been referred. With its friendly user interface and phenomenal support staff, we have found the HSRM to be an invaluable tool. Not only has it streamlined the coordination of care for our veterans, but it has created efficiencies in our day-to-day administrative operations.

The Veterans Health Administration is the largest integrated health care system in the U.S, providing care at over 1200 facilities and caring for 9 million enrolled Veterans each year. In 2014, Congress enacted the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act which required the VA to establish the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), which was a direct response to concerns regarding Veterans’ access to care. Veterans that were waiting longer than 30 days for a VA appointment or lived more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility became eligible to receive care through a VA-approved community provider. This was a great idea, however it posed many unforeseen challenges in regard to coordinating care between organizations, such as sending and receiving electronic records through different EMR (electronic medical records) systems, timely receipt and exchange of test results, and so on. In 2018, the VA Health Services Research & Development Service gathered VA clinicians, researchers, policy makers and other VA personnel to review the cross-system care coordination process in order identify the challenges and gaps in care that needed to be addressed. As a result, the HSRM was born and launched in May of 2019. This tool aimed to streamline the referral process and provide a central location to send and receive medical documents, authorizations, referral requests, patient information, and facilitate direct messaging between the VA and the community provider. It has since proved to drastically improve communication between medical groups, ultimately improving the quality of care for our Veterans. 

RAWNY is very pleased to be a part of the VA’s CCN and would like to recommend the HSRM to any medical facility that works alongside a VA facility. It has cut down on our phone calls and faxes, reduced the administrative burden that often comes with working with time-sensitive authorizations, allowed us to communicate quickly and efficiently with the specific VA associated with the patient, and allowed us to retrieve patient demographic information in a matter of seconds. However, we truly feel that the benefits to our practice are secondary to the benefits to the Veterans. Reduced turnaround times for appointments has been the biggest advantage for our patients. Early intervention and treatment of retinal conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy can be the difference between preserving vision and permanent vision loss. Ultimately, quick and efficient scheduling of appointments and initiating treatment in a timely manner can and will make a difference in the quality of life for our Veterans. 

If you are a medical practice or organization interested in becoming a community care provider for Veterans and utilizing the HSRM portal, visit https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/veterans/CCN-Veterans.asp to learn more.

Sources: https://www.va.gov/health/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6542862/ Recommendations for the Evaluation of Cross-System Care Coordination from the VA State-of-the-art Working Group on VA/Non-VA Care

 

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