Revolutionizing Veteran Healthcare: How NAVREF and Greenphire are Unlocking the Power of Research

November 10 2023  

In recognition of Veteran’s Day, I had the opportunity to interview Hawk Tran, the COO of the National Association of Veterans’ Research and Education Foundations (NAVREF). Our discussion covered important topics such as NAVREF’s ongoing initiatives to improve veterans’ access and awareness to clinical trials and how Greenphire is helping contribute to these efforts.

Can you please share a bit of background on NAVREF and its mission.

At NAVREF, our primary mission is to build a stronger veteran research and innovation community by supporting over 75 VA-affiliated research and education foundations (NPCs) with collaborative public and private partnerships. Additionally, our priority is to develop research and education funding opportunities for our members and advocate on their behalf by engaging policymakers, legislators, and stakeholders to further veterans’ health and medical research interests. But to do this, we need industry partners like Greenphire, who provide valuable tools to enhance our network of research institutes, enriching the health and well-being of our nation’s veterans through cutting-edge care. 

Improving Access to Clinical Trials for Veterans

How can we create more awareness and access to clinical trials for veterans? 

NAVREF is continuing to expand our public and private sector partnerships to maximize outreach to the veteran audience. However, as we work to increase awareness, there’s a critical need for stakeholders to get involved not just by providing resources, but also by helping to promote and normalize clinical research as a core value of American industry. There’s more to research than just new discoveries. Research can be exciting if we begin to see it as part of everyday life and understand what the next small step means in the bigger scheme of things. If we can achieve this notion, we can overcome several barriers to clinical trials. 

What barriers prevent veterans from participating in clinical research? 

Many veterans simply might not know that they have an opportunity to participate in clinical trials. This could be due to lack of awareness or understanding of the benefits. On top of that, getting access to these trials can be difficult, especially for veterans who live in rural areas. They might struggle with transportation, finding a trial site, or dealing with other issues like  insufficient resources. 

Another challenge is trust. Some veterans might not trust the healthcare system, and they worry that taking part in a clinical trial could affect their privacy or their VA benefits. So, it’s not just about knowing about clinical trials – it’s also about making sure they’re accessible and building trust in the process. 

Building a Stronger Veteran Research Community Through Support and Collaboration

Why are veteran communities important to consider for clinical research?

Our veterans deserve the very best healthcare and support. They have honorably served to defend our way of life and, in doing so, sacrificed time with their families and loved ones. For that, access to cutting-edge healthcare is one of the smallest gestures we can give back to them as a nation.  

Veterans often face special health challenges because of their service, like being exposed to harmful substances or suffering from traumatic brain injuries. Research on these issues is vital because it focuses on their specific needs. By studying the health of veterans, we can discover important medical information that benefits not only veterans but also people in the wider community. This research can lead to new and better treatments and ways to prevent health problems for all of us. 

What are the challenges that the VA and NAVREF have in conducting research?

Several immediate challenges still exist in the veterans’ research industry. One aspect is start-up times. NAVREF and the VA collaborated in 2017 to develop the “100 Days Faster” Initiative to speed things up. To do this, we created a collaboration between the VA and Industry to troubleshoot together important resources like medical records and review processes. We used the VA’s large pool of patients to get more industry-sponsored clinical trials going. But they also realized that it’s important to ensure veterans in rural areas can access these trials, as they often face problems with transportation and resources. So, they’re working on spreading these opportunities out to reach veterans everywhere, no matter where they live. 

Can you talk about the VA’s Million Veteran Program

The Million Veteran Program (MVP) is a VA research program and currently the world’s largest genetic database with the potential to unlock many secrets to human health. The program will likely cross the one million veteran mark by Veterans Day as they currently have 995,000 voluntary enrollees. By participating in MVP, veterans contribute to the advancement of medical science and healthcare, potentially leading to improved treatments for veterans in the future. It’s important to note all personal information is removed from the samples. 

NAVREF’s network of NPCs are portals for industry partners to eventually study the data within MVP. These discoveries will further scientific areas such as precision medicine and infectious disease research. Theoretically, the future of MVP could lead to tailored treatments for the individual patient. This is a really exciting area to learn more about and NAVREF is lucky to be in a position to help facilitate these future projects. 

Greenphire + NAVREF Partnership

How long has NAVREF been a partner of Greenphire?

NAVREF has been partnering with Greenphire for nearly a decade. This collaboration has significantly improved the efficiency of the NPCs in their mission to facilitate and support veterans’ research efforts. 

What benefits have you heard from research participants or their families regarding the use of ClinCard? 

Many research participants in our network have expressed their love for having instant access to funds via ClinCard instead of waiting for a check by mail. They find it convenient for everyday expenses like shopping and gas, eliminating the need to wait for check deposits.  

As reported from our NPC in Gainesville, FL, “we have a clinician who uses ClinCard for traveling between sites to see participants and greatly appreciates the speed and convenience it offers, allowing them to focus more on their work instead of waiting for checks to arrive and funds to become available. Streamlining participation with ClinCard has truly improved the research experience by reducing administrative hassles and making it a more positive overall experience for our participants.” 

Additionally, we currently have two sites (Cleveland CA and Palo Alto (PAVIR) VA) that are benefiting from the use of ClinCard’s integrated rideshare offering, which provides a simple way to get our participants to the clinic while ensuring no out-of-pocket costs.

Ongoing Innovations in Clinical Research at VA and NAVREF 

What are the priorities of VA research? 

Dr. Rachel Ramon, the VA Chief Research and Development Officer, has laid out five priority areas for the VA research program which includes: 

  • increasing Veterans’ access to high-quality clinical trials  
  • increasing the real-world impact of VA research  
  • putting VA data to work for Veterans
  • actively promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • and building community through VA research 

What does the future of clinical research at the VA look like?

The future of clinical research at the VA looks bright as it aims to enhance integration into the overall VA healthcare system, making research findings directly benefit veterans’ care. There’s a growing focus on translational science and applied research, which means research findings will be more effectively turned into real-world treatments and solutions to improve veterans’ health and well-being. 

NAVREF envisions a landscape where innovations such as artificial intelligence will be able to expedite patient matching to advance clinical research, as well as the capability of the VA and industry to use technology to reach veterans in all parts of the country regardless of geographic distance from a VA medical center. We will be able to use new tools at a microscopic level to deliver care designed for the individual veteran and not rely on broad treatments. The future is unbelievably bright in our eyes when it comes to health research and NAVREF is proud to be on the frontlines of this industry and connect veterans to the care they have earned through their service. 

For more information on Greenphire, please visit these resources:

  • Read our case study on how the Baltimore VA NPC effectively streamlined their patient payment process while boosting security with ClinCard. 
  • Get to know more about ClinCard, our participant payment solution
  • Take the next step – Request a demo
Joe Gough
Sr. Solutions Specialist, Strategic Accounts

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