Beyond logistical mystification and wait-time frustrations, clinical confusion remains a barrier to patient satisfaction and improved outcomes. Veterans are still being given clinical information in outdated, overwhelming formats. “How am I supposed to understand the side-effects of my new medication when I am given six pages of single-spaced instructions to weed through? I was told to call the number on the handout with any questions, but all I got was a recorded answer.” says a Pittsburg veteran.
Secretary Shulkin promised more responsiveness at his confirmation hearing5, but veterans are still trying to parse out which part of pre-recorded instructions apply to them when calling hotlines for help or clarification. Again, Shulkin’s department has an ambitious plan to improve access to care management, but tangible results to structural change in an organization as massive as the VA are likely still years away. For today’s suffering veterans, how can they understand how their medication works and next steps in their care, when patient instructions continue to be long, often generic and confusing, inventories of possible side effects?