This month at the Cohen Veterans Care Summit in Washington, DC, CVN’s data scientist Aaditya Bhat said something that resonated with me. Although I’m taking great liberty with his words, he implied that data is simply data but that by asking the right questions and applying the proper tools, data can be transformed into wisdom. As CVN’s new Senior Vice President of Research, that’s the challenge that I see in front of me – how can we use the data we collect and transform it into wisdom?
We collect lots of data during each client’s course of care. It starts when our clients first contact us and are administered an intake assessment; at their first visit, they complete a comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment. At each encounter, our clinicians enter data in CVN’s electronic health record data on the types of evidence-based therapies they administered and their clients’ progress, often administering standardized scales to more objectively measure clinical symptoms and inform care decisions that work towards meaningful change.
While these data are used by clinicians to demonstrate progress in treatment and when deviations are needed, when aggregated they can provide a wealth of data that can be used inform clinical processes across the network. We might learn differences between the clinical needs of women and men veterans; of veterans and their family members; or of veterans of different service eras – all of which can help us with outreach and inform the services we provide. But perhaps most importantly, these data can help us document the improvements we are seeing in our clients and the difference we are making in the lives of veterans and their families.
These topics, however, are just the beginning. We can also integrate new data with the data we already capture to address even more research questions. CVN invests thousands of dollars each year in trainings to ensure our clinicians are knowledgeable about state-of-the-art evidence-based practices. The data we collect on these trainings can be leveraged to examine whether the trainings improve clinical practices and, ultimately, client outcomes. We also know that our clients are deeply and profoundly impacted by the communities in which they live; we can integrate data from the Census and elsewhere to understand how the communities in which our clinics are located vary, and how this diversity impacts the clients we see and the services we provide.
The formalization of research within CVN is not a paradigm shift, but rather a natural next step in the network’s maturation. It builds upon the science that underpins the care we provide, the trainings we offer, and the quality assurance procedures already in place. But it provides a formal avenue for us to learn from our experiences and to improve based on these learnings.
By Rajeev Ramchand, PhD
CVN Senior Vice President, Research