The MSBA program at Foster is proud to have a thriving veteran population in the current cohort– including former naval nuclear operator, Dan Oranski, and former Marine Corps infantry officer, Caleb Aguiar. Alongside team member, Homesh Krishnamoorthy, Dan, and Caleb are working on a special data science project that they hope will improve the efficiency of veteran healthcare processing
As a veteran, Dan knows firsthand the struggle that can surround accessing healthcare benefits, and the obstacles that are present when waiting for paperwork to be processed properly and quickly, through Veterans Affairs (VA).
“My experience was pretty tumultuous. I had to reach out to my local congressperson to help assist with my initial path through,” Dan recalls.
“The way that the service is currently distributed, is that it’s not run by a government agency. They [Veterans Affairs] contract out to two specific entities, and most of the people who work there are either volunteers or they’re on some sort of low pay basis, so the efficiency of the process is minimal. Although the people are very good at what they do there’s just a lot of human error associated with it,” Dan explains.
Combatting the Human Error
To help minimize human error, Dan, Homesh, and Caleb are exploring the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to automate the processing of veteran paperwork, recognizing that there is still the need for human involvement. Homesh shares that “Basically, the goal of the project is to improve the processing efficiency of medical documents for veterans so that they could essentially get their services faster. And we’re using Python to do this because it’s the language of data science.”
The hope is to have a nonprofit that runs a software that allows veterans to scan in their medical records into an algorithm. The algorithm will then find the pertinent information in the documents such as pre-existing health conditions and prescriptions. Lastly, the software will then produce a cohesive document, which can be processed by a human.
“This will help expedite the human processing, which will inevitably be required—but it will get them to that point a lot faster, so more veterans are actually serviced per unit of time,” Dan summarizes.
Why This is Needed
According to Balancing Demand and Supply for Veteran’s Healthcare —a summary report put out by RAND Health Quarterly, the overall Veteran population is in decline. However, it is important to note that the number of veterans who may need to seek healthcare through Veterans Affairs is expected to increase through 2024, and “the demand for VA services may outpace supply”. For instance, by 2024 it is projected that 19% of veterans will have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan compared to the 12% who had in 2012. This means more veterans will be accessing benefits through the VA
Moreover, an article in Federal News Network cites that internal data from the VA shows that between October 2019 and June 2020, veterans had to wait an average of 41.9 days for an appointment.
Furthermore, while the effects of COVID-19 on the U.S veteran population has not been fully analyzed yet, one thing is clear, this pandemic, alongside regular capacity constraints at Veterans Affairs, continues to expose weaknesses in the accessibility of VA healthcare.
Ultimately, here at Foster, we strive to elevate our students to become not just leaders in the world of data, but to become industry professionals who are working to make a life-changing impact for others and the world around them with data.
From our Foster family to yours, Happy Veterans Day!