VA Studying Patient Records To Identify Groups at High-Risk of Suicide

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is teaming up with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to help prevent veteran suicides. Researchers from these organizations developed an algorithm that assesses patient health records to screen them for high suicide risk.

Using Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patient records from 2009 to 2011, manner of death data from the National Death Index, and suicide predictor data from VHA clinical records, Dr. John McCarthy and colleagues developed the algorithm. The researchers used 3,180 veteran suicide cases along with 1,056,004 control cases.

Currently, the VHA flags veterans as high-risk through a personal clinical evaluation. The data-driven computer algorithm does the same assessment but on a much more sensitive level, catching two thirds of high-risk patients that clinical assessments missed.

The VA is seeking to implement this new process to identify small groups of veterans with a high risk of suicide and provide targeted, enhanced prevention services. Officials also hope they can extend the system to help predict suicide risk in civilian patients.

Suicide among veterans is not uncommon. A new analysis of veteran suicides using data from 2001 to 2007 found a 29.5 per 100,000 veteran suicide rate, which is 50 percent higher than the civilian rate. Veterans often face life with lingering memories of combat, dealing with the death of fellow troops, and learning to cope with service-related injuries like lost limbs and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The VA offers disability benefits to veterans who have suffered a disabling condition due to their military service. Veterans Help Group® provides assistance to veterans filing disability claims. Call today – 1-855-855-8992.