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How the VHA is Bringing High-Value Digital Health Care to All Veterans

Rebecca Ohlinger

Veterans coming home from deployment are taxed with physical, social, and mental health challenges, facing increased risk of chronic disease, unemployment, and homelessness in the U.S. To address the needs of this vulnerable patient population, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is taking a collaborative, community-focused, and digital approach to care delivery.    

To date, the VHA has implemented some of the most innovative digital health solutions: a smart bathroom mat to help prevent diabetic limb loss, a cane using connected sensor technology to support blind and visually-impaired Veterans with walking, mobile mental health apps, TeleLactation services, and virtual cardiac rehabilitation

These digital health innovations were made possible with Veterans’ input and involvement in the VHA Innovation Ecosystem. The integrated health system is especially focused on equity and inclusion, strategically building, and adopting technology to ensure these health care solutions reach all Veterans – not just those with smartphones.

“Inclusion and equity are both critical areas of focus and importance across VA. VA is aware that, particularly with digital medicine and emerging technologies, unintentional inequity may be created. Acknowledging this risk and keeping that risk at the forefront of design and development will help us all do the best we can to include a wide variety of voices and experiences.” – Anne Bailey, Director of Clinical Technology Innovation, VHA Innovation Ecosystem

The VHA Innovation Ecosystem is the catalyst for enabling the discovery and spread of mission-driven health care innovation to advance care delivery and service that exceeds expectations, restores hope, and builds trust within the Veteran community. As they look to expand their industry partnerships with groups focused on emerging technology-based deliverables, they’ve leveraged a Value-Driven framework to measure and evaluate new digital health solutions.  

Partnering with Collaborative Communities to Increase Veterans’ Access to Digital Health Care

The VHA identified the best digital health solutions for Veterans’ needs and worked with Digital Medicine Society (DiMe) to create The Playbook: Digital Healthcare Edition, an essential guide for helping other health systems follow their example to build efficiencies and improve care. They have also joined DiMe’s Digital Health Measurement Collaborative Community (DATAcc) initiative to increase collaboration between the healthcare industry and the US government and help address unintentional inequities created by an increasingly digitized healthcare environment. 

Recently, the VHA hosted their annual iEX Conference to share how they’re pushing boundaries to innovate and improve Veterans’ health care with technology. As they continue seeking new partnerships for engagement and collaboration, the VHA is being very intentional about building the infrastructure for its larger digital health strategy. Dr. Arash Harzand, MD, MBA, a Senior Innovation Fellow with the VHA Innovation Ecosystem, and also the Director of Digital Cardiology & Vascular Medicine at Atlanta VA Medical Center, is focused on leveraging patient-generated data and finding ways to engage with Veterans through the tools and devices they use everyday as part of their health care.     

Learn more about how the VHA has digitally transformed its health system to improve the lives of Veterans and people who care for them. Download The Playbook: Digital Healthcare Edition today. 

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