Keeping Up to Date: Some Key Resources in Healthcare Research

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Written by: Christopher Plein, Ph.D. West Virginia University & Military Families Learning Network – Military Caregiving team

As a professor, I teach classes on healthcare policy and administration.  This work complements my responsibilities with the Military Families Learning Network, in the sense that I often come across resources and seek to share lessons that are relevant to both students and professionals.

There are many open-access resources that are highly credible and informative in the study of health care.  In previous blogs, I have talked about the availability of useful Department of Defense data, studies, and reports.  In this blog, I want to briefly identify two sources that are valuable to professionals, scholars, and others interested in healthcare trends in our society.

The first resource that I would like to highlight is the journal, Health Affairs.  Published monthly, this journal is available online and regularly offers in-depth analyses, as well as commentaries and brief updates on healthcare trends.  It is distinct in that its intended audience includes both academics and providers.  In short, the content is relevant and accessible.  Monthly issues are often thematic in nature.  Of special interest is the August 2019 issue that focuses on Military Health Systems.  The issue covers much of the landscape of contemporary military health.  Two articles of special interest provide a firm grounding in the changes and development in the military health system over time.

One article, “The US Military Health System: Promoting Readiness and Providing Health Care” by Tanielian and Farmer provides an overview of the evolution of the military health system and perhaps more importantly highlights recent changes in TRICARE and the Defense Health Agency.

Another article, “Readiness of Medical Providers in the Military Health System: Overview of Operational and Policy Considerations,” by Hutter et al. takes an even closer look at the health professional staffing and specializations in the current military health system and anticipates future needs.

Both of these articles, as well as others in the August 2019 issue of Health Affairs, provide a helpful supplement to resources available through the MFLN, including informative webinars on developments in TRICARE and caring for those with special health needs.

The second resource that I would like to highlight are the various data tables and graphs regularly provided through the Kaiser Family Foundation.  There are many resources available through the foundation’s website.  Considering that the military community is spread across the United States, data on comparative and individual state conditions can be especially helpful.  At the State Health Facts web portal, anyone can access information on such topics as population demographics and health conditions, health care access, health insurance coverage, publicly funded health insurance programs like Medicaid and Medicare, and more.

I often encourage my students to visit the Kaiser Family Foundation’s State Health Facts page to learn more about healthcare trends in the United States.  It is an eye opening experience to compare and contrast health conditions and policy situations across the states.  For those helping military families with caregiving and other needs, an understanding of state variation is crucial.  It is a topic that we have explored before through webinars and blogs on Medicaid developments.

Keeping up to date on healthcare matters is made so much easier by readily available resources.  I hope that you find these helpful.  As part of our Military Caregiving team mission, we will continue to work to identify and share resources and information that can help all in their work with military families.

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