Advancing Medical Care at the VA

Neil Evans MD, Chief Officer for the Office of Connected Care at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) was the keynote luncheon speaker on January 29, 2019, at the Health IT Summit organized by AFCEA’s Bethesda Chapter in Maryland.

Dr. Evans discussed the high burn out rate for providers as they face very high incessant demands. He pointed out that the use of health IT can help reduce doctor burn out, improve their practice of medicine, and at the same time, improve the patient experience.

He also discussed how MHS GENESIS, the new EHR modernization project, will be able to connect medical and dental information across the continuum of care, support the delivery of modern integrated healthcare, and replace legacy systems. Dr. Evans said, MHS GENESIS will be transformative at the VHA.

To advance the use of technology in ICUs, the VA opened VISN’s 10’s Tele-ICU in downtown Cincinnati, which includes a team of 47 registered nurses, five advance practices nurses, 14 physicians, and six supporting staff members.

This ICU can now effectively handle stroke cases where the collaboration between a Tele-ICU physician, a telestroke neurologist, and the in-person team at the veteran’s side are able to effectively interact not only with the staff but also with family members.

Recently, the VA increased their use of telehealth by developing partnerships with Walmart, Philips Healthcare, the VFW, and the American Legion through the initiative “Advancing Telehealth through Local Access Stations (ATLAS).

For example, Walmart will provide private exam rooms and telehealth equipment at five stores in a 12 month pilot program with VA Telehealth. Philips will donate telehealth equipment to 10 VFW and/or American Legion posts equipped with private spaces set up for telehealth visits.

The VA has signed an agreement with T-Mobile so that customers of T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile can use the VA’s telehealth application “VA Video Connect” without their data plans being charged.

The Office of Connected Care has initiated “Virtual Specialty Care (VSC) QUERI”, the research arm to carry out quality improvements The goal is to eventually roll out promising clinical practices while incorporating virtual care technologies such as telehealth, eHealth, and mobile health, and at the same time evaluate and refine promising clinical practices that incorporate virtual care technologies.

The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert Wilkie, recently stated “The VA Mission Act of 2018 is going to advance the VA’s ability to make recommendations regarding the modernizing or realignment of facilities at the Veterans Health Administration, establish a permanent community care program, improve information sharing with community providers, and make it possible for the VA to participate in the national network of state-based prescription drug monitoring systems.”

The Mission Act enables licensed healthcare professionals at the VA to provide treatment using telemedicine technologies and to implement IT systems to help assess and improve the family caregiver program. The Act also addresses how the VA can best serve underserved areas and deploy mobile teams to underserved facilities.

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