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Reforming Delivery
VA Hospitals Spearhead Health Innovation

Veteran’s Affairs is becoming a place to watch for health care innovation. After an investigation exposed the chronic provider shortages at some VA hospitals, the system had to reach for new solutions. The Washington Post reports that one approach has been to integrate technology and telemedicine into the VA system. The WaPo piece focus largely on mental health—the VA is experimenting with sessions over Google Hangouts—but the effort is broader, as well:

VA distributed over 10,000 tablets to clinicians across the country last year and launched a mobile app store with more than a dozen apps to provide veterans with access to health services.

The apps have been downloaded by more than 300,000 users since their release, according to VA officials. Booz Allen is providing the IT support for Connected Health.

The shortages facing the VA are increasingly plaguing the national health care system as a whole—and whether you see those shortages as a problem of raw numbers or distribution, they nevertheless remain a problem. So the solutions that the VA tries will be very relevant to national efforts in the coming years, and the pivot to telemedicine is a key one. Telemedicine can help doctors reach patients in areas with few care providers or hospitals as well as make health care cheaper and more convenient. But it faces a number of barriers, both legal and cultural, before it can realize its full promise. The VA’s program will be a good place to observe how those barriers could perhaps be circumvented or torn down.
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  • Kevin

    The VA has been touted as this great medical innovator for years (long before the most recent wave if scandals) – but it always see to suffer from poor outcomes and gross inefficiencies and mismanagement, which leads to scandal. I suspect what the VA is good at is press relations – convincing journalists and wonks that it is the wave of the future in health care. Actually delivering on that is another thing.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Maybe the public should just demand that anyone working inside the VA be allowed to speak anonymously with the press—-without approval by the chain of command and the press shop. That might fix other agencies, police departments and schools, too.

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