7 Things You Need To Know About Veterans And Healthcare in 2017

We are on the precipice of some of the most profound changes in veteran healthcare since the Veterans Administration (VA) was elevated to a cabinet position in 1989.

The pent-up reforms needed at the VA combined with the new Administration, have set conditions for massive change. For example, there are 12.5 million non-elderly veterans. Among these, two-thirds of veterans are eligible for VA health care, but only one-third are enrolled. What if they decide to take advantage of their VA healthcare and prescriptions?

Only 1 of 4 veterans receive healthcare at the VA. So the veteran healthcare conversation must include non-VA alternatives, as increasingly veterans are combining private healthcare with the VA based upon their needs.

Healthcare businesses and government will soon be making very important decisions. These decisions have the potential to improve healthcare for the 23 million military and veterans plus their families.

A 2-part study just released, Veterans: A Significant Force In The New Health Economy, provides some of these insights needed for veteran-centric decisions. As you consider 2017, here are 7 things you should know about veterans and healthcare.

1. The latent veteran healthcare demand
While the veteran population slowly decreases, the number of veteran patients at the VA is increasing. This is partly a function of increased costs of healthcare. Among elderly American's, 1 in 3 males are veterans.

For just the top five chronic illnesses among veterans, almost two thirds (63%) state that the illness was caused by their military service. As the cost of their care increases, many veterans are turning back to the VA for care. In fact, the well-publicized VA claim backlog was less a function of Iraq/ Afghanistan veterans, but instead Vietnam veterans filing claims to gain healthcare.

2. Veterans have incidence of certain chronic conditions with a much higher index compared to the general American population
You might expect veterans to have a spinal cord injury at a 708 index to the average American. But not that veterans have a 637 index in chronic fatigue syndrome.

Veterans are also 3 times as likely to have diabetes. Veterans index 421 to have headaches compared to the general population - this includes a large female veteran population, which is not normally seen in the headache patients. The $1.275 billion "Internal analgesic" pharmaceutical category might find that interesting.

Veterans index at 416 for having Congestive Heart Failure compared to the average American. The $238 billion industry treating this condition might consider a "shadow target" targeting veterans with beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics.

3. Behind these large veteran populations with chronic conditions are targetable profiles
Knowing the characteristics of a veteran with a condition increases the ability to target them with information on their options for care. In addition, this insight enables CRM to guide veterans to navigate their options and find the best treatment.

4. Veterans have more healthcare options, which means they can get products and services through different means
The average age of a veteran will continue to increase until 2026, when it will start to decrease. As veteran healthcare needs continue to increase, more veterans will take advantage of their VA options. But they won't give up their non-VA care. Veterans will look to offset costs or seek specialists where VA care is strongest.

These "hybrids" of VA and non-VA healthcare will grow as veterans are better educated on their options. Right now Veterans have a family physician through Blue Cross, see a specialist through the VA, and get VA prescriptions filled at Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, or the VA. The key will be to keep this experience streamlined for veteran patients to know their options and use the best one for their situation.

5. Veterans have fundamentally different patient journeys
The study, Veterans: A Significant Force In The New Health Economy, shows that influenced by different options for care, veterans have different patient journeys than the average American. These options plus technology, which has enabled greater access to health-related information, have shaped these patient journeys- which often differ by chronic condition. This can have significant implications on diagnosis and treatment, so healthcare providers and advertisers meet veterans where they are at. These veteran patient journeys become the blueprint for successful communications and treatment for veterans.

6. Outsourcing of VA Healthcare is a game-changer
Veterans Choice, the current vehicle enabling VA care outsourcing, allows veterans to go to local providers if they are greater than 30 miles from a VA facility or an appointment is greater than 30-days away. The program is set to expire in a year, but it has had good success- especially in the areas of specialists (urologists, podiatrists, etc.). So, it may be a safe assumption that some version of Veterans Choice will continue.

In addition, the new Administration has already expressed the intent to "ensure our veterans get the care they need wherever and whenever they need it. No more long drives. No more waiting backlogs. No more excessive red tape. Just the care and support they earned with their service to our country."

7. To treat veteran patients you have to know how to reach them
Veterans are all around us but more camouflaged than ever. Targetable patient profiles help this, but you need to be empowered with veteran insights and military media expertise to reach veterans. In addition to healthcare professionals, technology and veteran communities, word of mouth is more relevant among veterans.

MARCH Marketing provides best in class military and veteran expertise to inform healthcare strategy, marketing, and services to commercial, government, and non-profit clients. With offices in Chicago, the agency is one of the few that provide these type of world-class marketing and consulting services, and the only with deep expertise into healthcare for the military and veteran audience. When it comes to healthcare strategy and communications to military and veterans, MARCH is the agency to call. For more information, visit us at www.marchcorp.com