Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Veterans Affairs News

The Department of Veterans Affairs just announced a new aggressive initiative to solicit private-sector input on a proposed “fast track” veteran’s claims process for service-connected presumptive illnesses due to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.

According to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, “With the latest, fastest, and most reliable technology, the VA hopes to migrate the manual processing of these claims to an automated process to meet the needs of today’s veterans in a more timely manner.”

Over the next two years, about 200,000 veterans are expected to file for disability compensation claims under an historic expansion of three new presumptive illnesses announced last year. They affect veterans who have Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease, and B-cell leukemia.

Along with the publication of the proposed regulations for the three new presumptive illnesses this spring, VA intends to publish a formal request in Federal Business Opportunities seeking private-sector corporations to propose automated solutions for the parts of the claims process that take the longest amount of time.

The contract to provide the new automated solution is expected to be awarded in April with proposed solutions to be submitted to the VA within 90 days. Implementation of the solution is expected within 150 days.

In other news, the Washington D.C. Veterans Medical Center’s (DCVAMC) Eastern VA Cardiac Pacemaker Surveillance Center recently reached a milestone with more than one million plus calls made using the “Electronic House Calls” system.

Two Cardiac Pacemaker Surveillance Centers use the system, one located at DCVAMC and the other located at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. The VA has followed more than 22,000 patients across the country since these facilities maintain a registry of all patients who have had pacemakers implanted at VA facilities.

The Eastern VA Cardiac Pacemaker Surveillance Center monitors 11,600 veterans with regularly scheduled “house calls” made by technicians and nurses. Patients have wristbands and a transmitter that gives EKG readings over telephone lines. The pacemaker rhythm indicates the state of the battery.

The Pacemaker Registry which contains implant histories on devices, can take appropriate actions in the event of a recall or if other pacemaker issues occur. Through the years, a number of innovations have taken place in implanted cardiac therapy, so today devices are all solid state and are able to record multiple events.

The data called tracings are collected and maintained in the patient’s EHR which has all of the records to include vital signs, physician notes, test results, and images on each VA patient. The tracings are downloaded, analyzed, and then a report is sent to the hospital. The VA also has an automated system for recording the tracings called “CardioVoice”.