Enhanced Communications Could Expedite Care for Veterans - (Archived)

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has an extremely important mission. The agency is responsible for providing care and services to the men and women that have served the nation by putting their lives on the line for its freedom and safety.

With millions of active duty, reserve and retired soldiers across all branches of the military today, it’s quite obvious that the job of the VA is not only important, but also daunting.

The VA has been criticized in the past for operating slowly, or making veterans wait for the medical care or services that they need. However, with such a huge population of veterans in need of the VA’s efforts, it’s understandable that the agency struggles at times to keep up with demand.

Unfortunately for the VA, it’s only getting harder. America is wrapping up two major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and bringing more of America’s brave service members home. These returning soldiers will add to the overall population being served by the agency and further strain their operations.

To keep up, the VA will have to look closely at their operations and identify steps in the process where changes can expedite claim processing. One of the areas that could be optimized is how the VA communicates and interacts with the veterans it serves.

Currently, the VA receives claims and requests for services via mail. These requests need to be keyed in manually, which is a slow process that can create mistakes due to typos or the misreading of information.

When the information is keyed in, the claim is sent up the line for approval. Once approved or denied a response to the veteran needs to be authored and mailed. These communications need to be universal and well represent the agency, but also need to be tailored to the recipient and their particular claim especially when additional information or documentation is required to process an open claim.  Without good, clearly understandable and timely correspondence, this entire process can take time and can significantly delay the approval of a claim.

Luckily, technologies are available that can help to expedite the process at almost every step from when the claim is received to when a final communication is sent out to the veteran..

One step that can be taken is shifting the claim process from mail to electronic forms of communication. By enabling claims to be filed via email or online form, the information comes into the agency already in a digital format without needing to be keyed in.

With a new generation of veterans set to begin receiving services from the VA, this process could become increasingly attractive, since these veterans will most likely be comfortable with submitting forms and communicating electronically.

For documents that come into the agency via traditional mail, new technologies can effectively scan and digitize the claims in a way that is faster and more efficient than manually keying in data. The resulting data can subsequently be examined and compared automatically against existing records to help identify errors or fill in missing fields. This can help expedite claims by eliminating returned mail.

Also, once digitized, location intelligence solutions can take the information from claims and put them against maps. Using the mapping capabilities and additional location data helps to identify patterns and connections that may not be apparent by simply looking at the data alone. This aids in the identification and elimination of fraudulent claims.

Finally, new technologies can help optimize the systems in place for generating response letters to veterans. Some agencies continue to utilize old mainframe based systems or Word documents for important communication to veterans. This has lead to standardization and quality issues, not to mention version control problems, with the letters being sent to veterans today.

In other cases, legacy document systems require days or weeks to implement even slight changes to documents, which makes the construction of targeted, tailored communication a slow process. The veteran is the one being impacted by the slow time to market of these systems and processes.

Today’s advanced technologies can help preserve the quality and consistency of documents while ensuring that they can be easily tailored or targeted on a per-claim basis. A great example can be found in a recent Pitney Bowes Software case study about how Fairfax County, VA, managed to cut the amount of time needed to edit documents down from two days to fifteen minutes (to download a copy of the case study, please click HERE).

The VA has a tough job that’s slated to get increasingly more difficult in the very near future. By implementing new technologies that can alter the way the agency communicates with veterans, it can expedite claims and ensure that it provides the services and care veterans need in a timely fashion.

This post comes courtesy of the Engage Gov Today blog from our friends at Pitney Bowes.  You can check out the original post here.

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