Marshfield Clinic now including military status in patient health records

For the Tomahawk Leader

WISCONSIN – Marshfield Clinic Health System earlier this month announced that it is now including military status in patient health records to better diagnose and treat current military and veterans.

“Military experiences and exposures are well-known factors that affect individuals’ health and well-being, both in the short and long term,” Marshfield Clinic said in a release. “This is especially true when active military personnel and veterans mobilize and deploy to hazardous environments, whether that means combat or natural disaster responses.”

Marshfield Clinic noted that in the intricate tapestry of veterans’ experiences, both domestic and international exposures play a significant role.

“From traversing the globe to confronting natural disasters at home, their journey encompasses austere environments, biological and chemical exposures and the enduring legacy of traumatic events,” Marshfield Clinic stated. “As caregivers, it’s imperative to recognize these multifaceted challenges to deliver holistic care. Understanding and facilitating access to the array of resources available is essential in honoring their service and ensuring their well-being.”

Corey Cronrath, M.D., Medical Director of Marshfield Clinic Health System’s Occupational Health service line, said he believes understanding a patient’s military status and experience is crucial for enhancing their health care.

“As a physician and a veteran, I have been privileged to witness the dedication and sacrifice of our service members firsthand,” Cronrath stated. “They face a myriad of dangers – from the toxins of burn pits to enemy fire – both at home and abroad. Some of these exposures lead to immediate health issues, while others manifest over time, posing unique challenges to their health. It’s crucial for us, as the health care team, to understand these challenges. They affect not only our service members but also their families and communities. By understanding and being aware of the risks and hazards they have faced, we can better support them through the services available within and outside of the Marshfield Clinic Health System.”

The questions will be a regular occurrence for those patients aged 17 and older, repeating every three years or until the history is completely captured, according to the release.

Many people likely already share with their care providers if they have military experience or are a veteran during a normal annual visit, Marshfield Clinic noted. That information is often recorded in typed notes called social histories.

“Given the advancement in information technologies, the Health System has designed a set of discrete questions to capture these facts more consistently, creating much more reliable and organized data,” Marshfield Clinic said. “If patients respond ‘yes’ to whether they have served in the military or are currently serving, additional questions will open, including branch(es) of service; if they were deployed or mobilized; and years of service or if they are currently serving.”

Marshfield Clinic added that improvement to the patients’ medical records will “better inform health care providers about what may be affecting patients’ health,” noting that it can provide more depth for diagnostics and can better inform treatment plans.

“This is critical for a state like Wisconsin, where a number of the riskiest occupations are well-represented, including construction, transportation and agriculture (both farming and forestry),” Marshfield Clinic said. “Wisconsin is home to an estimated 350,000 veterans. Information about patients’ military history, occupation and industry will not affect their health insurance costs or coverage.”

These data regarding patients’ work also places health researchers at a new cutting edge of possibilities, according to Marshfield Clinic.

“This innovation places our research team at a tremendous advantage and could change the game,” said Bryan Weichelt, Ph.D., associate research scientist with the National Farm Medicine Center at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. “We will be one of the few health systems in the country equipped to examine health data in light of someone’s work and military history. And this new development is quite timely, given recent federal legislative actions such as the PACT Act and its impact on veterans’ eligibility and access to health care, including VA-funded Community Care, which veterans can receive at the Marshfield Clinic Health System, once enrolled.”

“This change will help us provide better care for our patients who are serving or who previously served in the military, and it will further our system-wide efforts to capture population health data and provide better care coordination for veterans,” Marshfield Clinic stated. “Adding this question into the registration process also allows us to better connect our patients to additional services of which they are eligible and helps our care teams identify possible exposures or risks that may have led to current ailments.”

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