The second annual “Brain Trust: Pathways to InnoVAtion” event hosted by VA marked a moment on the calendar when partners from private industry, academia and government, all of whom are seeking to affect change in Veteran care and brain health, come together to discuss important policy decisions, propose new ideas, and share stories that inspire us. Philips is always proud to be a part of this dynamic gathering, a time to recognize its 45 year partnership and support of nearly 50 percent of VA hospitals. This year was no exception with conversations covering topics including the importance of continuing research on biomarkers to help diagnose traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) early and accurately, determine the right treatment, and more effectively track the progression of any malady. Across all disciplines, the discussions from this year’s event remind us collaboration is critical to succeed at what we’re doing to improve the lives of those living with brain injuries.
For service men and women, circumstances and the inherent dangers they face make them disproportionately vulnerable to TBI. Veterans encounter a number of challenges when returning home from battle, and the challenges are intensified if they have suffered TBI. But they are not alone. Their loved ones – a parent, a spouse, or a friend – are often forced into a new role as caregiver, where they must assume new responsibilities that may dramatically impact day to day life. Veterans who suffer from TBIs face unique obstacles; but they are not alone.
During Brain Trust, we heard an emotional presentation of the caregiver journey from Alexis and her husband, Jason. Nearly 20 years ago, Alexis, a new seaman with the Coast Guard on her first assignment, was knocked to the deck of the USCGC Katherine Walker. She sustained significant injuries from the accident and struggled to find the right treatment plan. Jason, Alexis’ partner in matrimony and primary caregiver, struggled with the burdens of misdiagnoses, and frequent doctor visits to treat a myriad symptoms. He was forced to keep track of all of Alexis’ personal needs, but her clinical needs, as well. It wasn’t until years after her accident that Alexis was finally diagnosed with TBI. With this diagnosis, the VA was able to provide a holistic care plan that has been successful in helping her live a more fulfilling life with her family. Just as important, this diagnosis and care plan has supports for Jason, to help ease his burdens as a caregiver.
Alexis and Jason’s story brings to light two important issues the VA is seeking to address. One, how can TBIs be better diagnosed and treated? Two, how can we better support the caregivers who become an extension of the clinical team?
It is this need to address the human element of care that led the VA to create the Center for Compassionate Innovation. Philips believes it is a special responsibility for the entire healthcare industry to find solutions that provide the right diagnosis, the right care, and the right support, seamlessly. Through a long-standing partnership with the U.S. military and VA, we’ve developed solutions and services to help keep Veterans independent and healthy, and bring peace and stability to their caregivers. And Philips is dedicated to building upon the success already breaking down barriers to care and making a difference in the lives of patients and caregivers dealing with TBI. Innovations in telehealth, such as Lifeline, have started to make access to care easier by providing Veterans with personalized, proactive, patient-driven healthcare that supports physical and mental well-being. Philips Lifeline provides fast, reliable access to help with the press of a button, and offers peace of mind knowing that care is never far away if a fall should occur.
We also work with partners such as the Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF) to help provide military and Veteran caregivers the support they need at the local, state, and national levels. Philips is particularly proud to be a part of EDF’s Hidden Heroes campaign that brings vital attention to the untold stories of military caregivers and seeks solutions for the tremendous challenges and long-term needs they face. We travel around the country to communities to help empower, support and honor our nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers and show them that they are not alone. Jason recently tapped into this powerful support group when he became an EDF fellow. The Hidden Heroes caregiver community offers a positive place for military caregivers to connect with each other, share their stories, and find commonality in the challenges they face.
It is a shared responsibility to help restore normalcy to patients suffering from TBI and to strengthen and empower America’s military caregivers. At Philips the criteria for better healthcare is derived from listening to patients and their loved ones to understand what will help them feel like they have control over their simple daily routines. Important events like Brain Trust serve as a good reminder for us to keep listening and keep searching for ways to make life better
Joe Robinson is Senior Vice President, Health Systems Solutions, Philips North America. Joe is responsible for the Health Systems Solutions organization, which includes Government VA/DoD & Military Contracts, Healthcare Informatics, Population Health Management, Hospital to Home, Healthcare Transformation Services, Long-Term Strategic Partnerships, Managed Equipment Services, Healthcare Alliances, GPOs and Government Affairs at Philips Healthcare.