Veterans Healthcare – Shutdown Slowdown

in The Life Slant/The Political Slant by

*We can all agree that House Speaker Pelosi and President Trump have important jobs and face a variety of pressures. Politics, legislative agendas, and federal agency oversight, are all subjects of intense disagreement during this new era of divided government. In spite of these, both the speaker and the president, have a duty to the American people.

Veterans can and should be a focal point of inspiration, which allow for an easing of tensions in these spaces. These are the men and women who have served our country should be a lasting example of why domestic political gridlock should not stall or delay entrepreneurial  pursuits, which serve to better our veterans’ quality of life.

veterans healthcare

I suggest applying the principal of unity around veteran healthcare to encourage more active negotiations on political issues, so our government can get back to providing key services and enabling advances that, in the absence of this,will eventually harm our vets as another shutdown looms.

Vividly witnessing the aftermath of war, working with veterans in the healthcare space, it is sobering to see the extent of sacrifices our troops make. Providing our veterans with the best healthcare and developing ambitious, new technologies is imperative.

veterans healthcare

We have an opportunity to recognize that despite politics, we must continue to hold veterans’ healthcare harmless – and endorse in a bipartisan manner – advances in healthcare.

Encouragingly, Congress did pass advanced funding for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair (VA) hospital system, so that in the event of political infighting or government shutdowns, the healthcare services for veterans go untouched. While healthcare services will continue, I remain concerned that technological advances or purchasing could be impacted by overall increasing bureaucratic inertia, and allow for a weakening effect on vets being able to acquire new and needed technologies or services.

…eventually we are going to detract from both the development of new technology and services our Veterans deserve. “veterans healthcare

To elaborate, healthcare delivery has been migrating to a fee for value model over the last decade and this comports with changes the VA is already working towards, albeit at a slower pace. The fee for value paradigm that has been playing out over sometime, best illustrated by the Harvard Business Review piece co-authored by Michael Porter, is important because it aims at benchmarks and further provides entrepreneurs incentives to continue to seek new innovations to better outcomes for patients.

The VA, however, being the largest payer/provider system in our country, lags significantly behind the private sector in such conceptual advances. I would go so far to say that such government shutdowns as this recent one – which proved to be the longest in US history, in spite of forward funding from Congress, the VA is at a heightened risk of providing depleted services due to shutdowns like that.

For example, veterans I have worked with that eventually acquire clinically indicated advanced prosthetic devices, have reported long delays waiting for them at the VA. Shutdowns serve to increase those wait times due to a variety of contractor furloughs that provide support to the agency.

veterans healthcare

That is why – notwithstanding the shutdown, the VA must begin to mirror the advancements being made at Department of Defense (DoD) relating both to processes and products. We can go beyond good and on to great, not just providing healthcare products and services that give veterans the best chance for independence, but an ecosystem tuned to the direction of modern medicine.

In this last shutdown, though the VA was not immediately impacted, we still have the opportunity of ensuring that healthcare reform at the agency includes benchmarks that focus on healthcare outcomes and that the VA keeps pace with the Pentagon. The DoD Office of Naval Research (OnR) has been working on groundbreaking research in prosthetic technology that provides the VA with the opportunity to replicate those projects and help brings these technologies to the finish line.

We are proud to be a part of this effort and see it first hand with a company I founded, LIM Innovations which works with DoD to this end.

As an Entrepreneur,  I find inspiration in solutions that go from zero to one or aim to disrupt, speaking to the schools of thought from luminaries such as Peter Thiel and Clayton Christensen, respectively.

Unfortunately, bureaucracy is here to stay.  And as a result, more highly entrenched industries such as healthcare require a functioning, high-level, ecosystem to advance from one, two, three, four or beyond. Leadership not going to work…puts us at risk of being stuck at “one” forever.

President Trump and Speaker Pelosi have both been strong on Veteran issues. The government shutdown in Washington should allow for a moment to pause and realize if we can’t work through a domestic agenda, then despite advanced funding, eventually we are going to detract from both the development of new technology and services our Veterans deserve. Contractors not being paid is going to increase the risk of delayed healthcare services and a slowdown of needed research across many agencies.

This would also be a missed opportunity to unite around our veterans, and move into the future with our eyes on the next big discovery and on policy that advances healthcare for our service members. This is a key moment in the new congress – where focusing on veterans and their needs could be the strategy that allows policy makers to move the country forward.

 

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Dr. Andrew Pedtke is a Tech Entrepreneur,

Orthopedic Surgeon, and Founder of LIM Innovations.

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