Summary: ECRI launched the SALUTE Program to improve healthcare for veterans by addressing disparities in care and fostering better connections between veterans and their healthcare providers.

Key Takeaways:

  • The SALUTE Program provides a toolkit for healthcare providers and veterans to ensure better communication and diagnostic safety.
  • The program includes an Honor Roll for organizations implementing SALUTE, offering additional resources and collaborative opportunities.

ECRI, an independent healthcare and patient safety nonprofit, launched the SALUTE Program to improve healthcare for veterans and address disparities in care that veterans may experience from provider-to-provider.

Veteran Enrollment Statistics

Only about half of the approximately 19 million US veterans were enrolled in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare in 2021, according to a National Health Statistics report. Many veterans instead turn to civilian healthcare providers who are less reliably equipped to address military-related health concerns, according to ECRI’s patient safety experts. Veterans who receive healthcare outside the VA may be at higher risk of delayed diagnosis for a serious physical or mental illness. Veterans who served in the military after 9/11 use VA healthcare less than other veterans and are even more at risk.

SALUTE is designed to bridge that gap and help foster connections between veterans and their healthcare providers.

Addressing Challenges

“As a veteran who spent decades as a registered nurse, I’ve seen how difficult it can be to navigate the healthcare system and receive consistent, quality care that addresses veterans’ unique health risks,” said Shannon Davila, MSN, RN, CPPS, CPHQ, CIC, FAPIC, executive director of ECRI’s Total Systems Safety. “Clinicians don’t always know which of their patients are veterans; and many veterans who seek care outside the VA don’t share their veteran status and deployment history with their healthcare provider. That’s a critical first step in ensuring our veterans get the care they need.”

One in five veterans have been seriously injured during their military service, according to a Pew research study. The PACT Act requires VA health providers to conduct regular toxic exposure screenings for every veteran enrolled in VA healthcare, but it does not apply to civilian healthcare providers.

“Without resources tailored to veterans’ experiences and health risks, even the best-intentioned clinician could miss a diagnosis or treatment that could be life-changing,” said Davila. “This disparity in the standard of veteran-competent care affects millions of veterans today.”

Importance of Veteran-Competent Care

The SALUTE Program toolkit is available to download for free at The toolkit includes training for healthcare providers on communication that improves diagnostic safety and assessing current systems for veteran engagement; a checklist for veterans to engage with their provider; a white paper on equitable care for veterans; and a webinar outlining SALUTE resources. Some toolkit material is adapted from the Toolkit for Engaging Patients To Improve Diagnostic Safety, created by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

ECRI also established the SALUTE Honor Roll for healthcare providers and others in the healthcare ecosystem who plan to implement SALUTE to collaborate with one another. Honor Roll organizations receive additional resources including an Implementation Guide; a webinar series featuring leaders in veteran-competent care; and live virtual learning sessions facilitated by safety experts, bringing participants together to discuss best practices and lessons learned.