For years, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been committed to providing veterans with timely and convenient access to healthcare. As the number of veterans grow and VA enrollees become more dispersed across the nation, appointment backlogs and significant travel necessary to attend appointments challenged the VA to create a solution that better served this deserving population of American citizens. Previously, referring veterans to physicians within their own communities was often a time-consuming task for VA staff that presented obstacles impacting everything from follow-up treatment to reimbursement procedures.
Since 2017, the VA, in partnership with Cognosante, a leading technology provider based in Falls Church, Virginia, has been working to solve that problem. Cognosante launched the Community Care Referral and Authorization Program (CCR&A), which, through user-friendly software technology, is streamlining the VA’s patient referral process for millions of veterans. For ten weeks this summer, Margarite Fisher ’22, who graduated from Hollins University this spring with a bachelor’s degree in business, is serving on the team created to help veterans get the care they need faster.
The CCR&A system allows VA caregivers to more quickly refer veterans to local healthcare providers, including the coordination of treatment with doctors the patients already know and trust. The results have been dramatic: Over the past three years, CCR&A has generated more than 17 million community referrals and authorizations for more than three million veterans and reduced wait times by 75 percent, all while reducing costs for both the veteran and the VA.
Senior Program Director Sue Burke noted that Fisher, who will pursue a master’s degree in digital marketing beginning this fall at the Rennes School of Business in France, has played a key role on the CCR&A Project Team. “Margarite is using her strong marketing background to create an interactive team newsletter, while also working on long-needed updates to project standard operating procedures (SOPs) and other mission critical process templates. Her ‘can do’ attitude and willingness to dive into various facets of project management on a large and highly visible government project have proven valuable to our progress as a team this summer. We’re incredibly grateful to have her as part of the CCR&A team.”
Fisher’s opportunity to enhance the public healthcare experience comes through her participation in Cognosante’s inaugural Women in STEM Alliance – a program in which Hollins is a founding member. In partnership with women’s colleges, this unique diversity program is designed to increase access to IT careers for women technologists and offers non-technologists a front row seat to the skills needed for a successful career in business, strategy, or operations. Students apply academic studies to real-world projects, gain marketable career experience, and learn to collaborate with peers and professionals across the organization.
“Our University Engagement partnerships help develop the workforce of the future,” said Jennifer Bailey, chief administration officer at Cognosante. “Through mentoring, power skills training, and project leadership responsibility, these transformative opportunities set young professionals on a path to long-term career success. We’re excited that Hollins recognizes the value of the program and look forward to deepening this partnership to serve the university’s students for years to come.”