Suicide is among the issues affecting both active-duty troops and Veterans that the government hopes to address, as the United States sees an increase in the incidence of suicides among its troops.
On Wednesday, June 20, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki revealed a push towards making greater use of video conferences between patients and doctors. Sec. Shinseki shared that through this strategy, patients would be spared the necessity of having to travel to see their doctors, and will be given the opportunity to fit appointments into busy schedules.
In addition, Sec. Shinseki said that an increasing number of Veterans were communicating with the VA through electronic means, such as online chatting and text messaging, a trend that the VA is encouraging as it can help reduce the stigma that some patients feel when they seek help.
The VA intends to gradually integrate its electronic health records with those maintained by the Department of Defense, which the department hopes to accomplish by 2017. Shinseki pointed out that the risk for suicide among Veterans often begins at the time they were on active duty. He cited one suicide case to highlight the importance of the need for the DoD and the VA to improve how they maintain and share information.
Shinseki said: “VA should have received ample warning about the mental health burden this veteran was carrying… There was no handoff between our departments that would have enabled us to track and treat this veteran or any other veteran today.” He said further: “We can’t influence and help those we don’t see.”