The Epilepsy Center of Excellence will enable us to coordinate the activities of existing programs for epileptic patients under one umbrella, and to take advantage of the VA network in order to expand access to care for veterans
Baltimore, MD (Vocus) September 13, 2009
In response to the growing need for specialized care for patients with epilepsy, the Veterans Health Administration has selected the Veterans Affairs (VA) Maryland Health Care System as one of the founding institutions of a new Northeast Epilepsy Center of Excellence Network. Supported by a 5-year $6 million grant, this network will consist of four to six epilepsy centers linked to existing polytrauma and academic research centers where research and education about epilepsy can be fostered. Congressionally mandated to enhance epilepsy care for veterans with the disorder, the network will build current resources to serve veterans who may develop epilepsy as a result of traumatic brain injury.
“The Epilepsy Center of Excellence will enable us to coordinate the activities of existing programs for epileptic patients under one umbrella, and to take advantage of the VA network in order to expand access to care for veterans,” said Dennis H. Smith, director of the VA Maryland Health Care System.
Epilepsy, a brain disorder, is characterized by repeated, spontaneous seizures of any type. Caused by abnormally excited electrical signals in the brain, seizures ("fits," convulsions) are episodes of disturbed brain function that trigger changes in attention or behavior.
“Epilepsy treatment is complex, involving medication, surgery and electrical stimulation. It is also costly—$4,000 per patient annually, and a surgery is $100,000,” said Allan Krumholz, MD, director of the Epilepsy Center of Excellence at the VA Maryland Health Care System. “The Epilepsy Network will limit veteran travel, reduce the need to refer patients outside the VA, and improve the uniformity of care.”
The VA Maryland Health Care System has already begun developing connections with other VA medical centers to form a Regional Epilepsy Center, establishing and implementing strategies that would provide epileptic veterans with the highest level of care.
Through the network, clinicians plan to establish an innovative program based on health informatics - monitoring the size, distribution and outcomes among veterans with epilepsy and trauma, who are at risk for seizures. The use of advances in informatics—for example the VA’s computerized patient record system—will enable the network to provide both patient and caregivers with pertinent educational materials at the time of the patients’ visits.
The network has begun recruiting staff and developing administrative structures, with the expectation that basic administration and services will be in operation by the end of the first year. Expansions of facilities and services will be phased in as resources allow.
“I am proud that the VA Maryland Health Care System has been selected as a National Epilepsy Center of Excellence site and excited to be part of this important national program to improve the care and welfare of our many veterans afflicted with epilepsy and seizures,” said Dr. Krumholz. Dr. Krumholz is also the associate director of the Sleep Disorder Program for the VA Maryland Health Care System and director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Epilepsy Center.
The Northeast network includes VA medical centers in Baltimore, Richmond, Va., and West Haven, Ct. The VA currently treats more than 9,000 veterans with epilepsy, a long-term complication of head trauma.
The VA Maryland Health Care System (VAMHCS) provides a broad spectrum of medical, surgical, rehabilitative, mental health and outpatient care to returning veterans at two medical centers, one rehabilitation & extended care center and five outpatient clinics located throughout the state. More than 52,000 veterans from various generations receive care from VAHMCS annually. Nationally recognized for its state-of-the-art technology and quality patient care, VAHMCS is proud of its reputation as a leader in veterans’ health care, research and education.
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