Two Asheville entrepreneurs, knowing firsthand that some of the biggest fights veterans face happen off the battlefield and over securing health care and benefits, have launched a new website to help.
At TroopScore.com, veterans can anonymously rate Veterans Health Administration services, as well as doctors and other organizations serving veterans, much like consumers at Yelp or TripAdvisor can review restaurants and hotels. The goal is to improve services and customer satisfaction, say founders Aaron Sanders and Brandon Sirios.
“Physicians in the private sector are comfortable with public reporting and research sites. We’re bringing that to veterans,” Sanders says.
The difficulty veterans face in getting access to quality care has come to light in a number of startling revelations over the past few years. In 2014, reports revealed that VA employees falsified wait lists to hide just how long it took to serve patients. Dozens died while they waited. Other scandals followed, including reports of over-prescribing opiates to veterans, the poor treatment of suicidal veterans in some offices and the shuffling of ineffective VA managers within the system.
The delays, denials and scandals all add up to serious challenges for veterans, say Sanders and Sirios. And that leads to frustration on the part of veterans seeking access to health care.
TroopScore allows veterans to help one another by rating the VA. It’s an informal channel of communication they say is focused on patient satisfaction and perceptions of care, an emphasis aimed at improving the system rather than seeking new punishments for ineffectiveness. There are four goals with TroopScore: increase veteran patient satisfaction; integrate with existing systems; improve system efficiency and delivery; help providers manage their reputation and promote their work.
“What’s cool about a model like Yelp and Angie’s List is that it really helps show the good performers and focuses on positive reinforcement,” Sirios says.
Both are Army veterans. Sanders, a 45-year-old combat engineer, served in Afghanistan. Sirios, a 32-year-old combat medic, served in Iraq. And both have their stories about the difficulties of navigating the maze of VA services.
The two say they’re social entrepreneurs at heart, with expertise in reaching specific audiences. Their goal is to get as many veterans as possible to use the site. Sanders stressed that all the information collected is anonymous, with the goal of helping improving health care for veterans.
“Vets are overdue for an independent resource so we can highlight top performers and sound
the alarm on abuses,” Sanders says. “TroopScore is a winner for veterans because it serves as a record of the care they receive, and allows them to send a ‘hand signal’ to those following after.”
A TroopScore membership is free to veterans. For providers, there’s a paid membership option that allows doctors, VA leadership and others the ability to post and edit a profile and engage with veterans; respond to patient satisfaction totals; and the ability to eventually compare and contrast care and service delivery with peer groups.