DOD grant to improve care delivery for service members, Veterans with spinal injuries

Friday, January 17, 2020

Suzanne Wood, an assistant professor of health services at the University of Washington School of Public Health, recently received a two-year, more than $750,000 grant from the United States Department of Defense to evaluate the delivery of health care for service members and Veterans with spinal cord injuries, and offer recommendations for improvement.

“Our results will enable federal health systems and their stakeholders to examine and improve upon the services delivery model to achieve meaningful organizational change,” Wood said.

Currently, the Veterans Administration (VA) delivers care to a little more than half of the estimated 42,000 Veterans with spinal cord injuries and related disorders who are eligible for care, according to the VA’s Office of Research & Development. Previous studies have revealed several barriers to care, including lack of trust in the system, stigma and safety concerns.

This new project will help clinical providers and staff at military and Veterans’ health systems to better understand these barriers and, therefore, ways they can manage their clinical relationships with patients and their caregivers.

Wood plans to collaborate with federal health partners and community-based agencies to first map, then evaluate the care delivery structure and its supports that contribute to improved quality of life for this population, from the point of injury through reintegration within the community. This will allow the research team to pinpoint the parts of the health care delivery system that work well as well as those that need improvement.

The project will also allow researchers to examine service delivery in real time and to engage providers in developing recognized processes for enhancing care and improving outcomes. Hence, the work is immediately relevant. Results can also be applied and further studied in terms of assessing systems change, quality improvement and access to care over the long term.

On the research team is Paul Fishman, professor of health services at the UW School of Public Health; Christian Helfrich, research associate professor of health services at the School and research investigator at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System; and Debra Revere, clinical assistant professor of health services at the UW School of Public Health.