Guiding principles of delivering health care in the digital age

“Technology divorced from human connection will only disappoint”


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Over the last 20 years, technology has changed and reshaped just about every aspect of our lives. Many of us remember vividly what life was like before the Internet or before mobile phones, and we may not have expected the information age to come so swiftly, and with such sweeping change. Given the pace of change, it might seem impossible to look out to 2025 or 2035 and envision what health care delivery will or should look like. However, there are signs and trends that are allowing us – as leaders in health care at VA – to prepare for the changes ahead.

As a VA primary care physician at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center and as Acting Chief Officer for VA’s new Office of Connected Care, I rely on a few basic principles while considering how technology will ultimately transform how health care is delivered and accessed at VA.

  • Consumers increasingly expect digital interactions to reliably meet their needs, and even to delight them.  Our focus and promise to Veterans must be to deliver convenient, delightful and understandable digital products that allow them to connect with the VA health care system, at all levels – from simple transactions and requests for information, to full-out virtual care.  These products need to be available to Veterans on their devices, in the location of their choosing.  This doesn’t mean that all care can, or should be, delivered on a Veteran’s personal device or in their home. But, we definitely need to have that option available when it is appropriate.
  • Relationships and our shared humanity matter.  We cannot lose sight of the importance of relationships, and of our shared humanity, as we implement technologies at various levels of the Veteran health care experience.  Yes, the world is going digital.  And yes, technology is important.  But, technology divorced from human connection will only disappoint.  Health care is about relationships built on trust, and focused on improving health.
  • Health care teams are often overwhelmed and are being asked to do more and more.  As we work to improve the Veteran experience, we must also ensure that technologies are designed with our health care teams’ needs in mind.  Ease of use is essential.  Health care team-facing virtual care tools should be intuitive and optimized for quality.  This will help VA attract and retain clinicians that want to stay and serve our Veterans, delivering the best care.

VA’s newly formed Office of Connected Care brought together VHA Telehealth Services and My HealtheVet, two of VA’s flagship programs, along with the VHA Innovation Program and VA Mobile. Supported by the technologies and services these teams have developed, VA has already set a high bar. Last year, more than 2.1 million episodes of care were delivered to Veterans via telehealth. More than 3 million Veterans were registered users of My HealtheVet, with more than 13 million VA prescriptions refilled and more than 1.6 million Veterans using Secure Messaging to communicate to their VA care teams. However, this is just the beginning of an ongoing transformation. If we keep the above principles in mind and likewise keep the needs of Veterans, their Caregivers and their health care providers at the forefront of our technologies, I’m optimistic about how things actually will look in 2025 or 2035!


EvansAbout the Author: Neil C. Evans, MD is the Acting Chief Officer for the Veterans Health Administration’s newly formed Office of Connected Care.

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Comments

  1. michael hurley    

    the v.a. programs do not work CHOICE for one, all this is some new program to delay paperwork for vets to get help and GIVE VETS MORE TIME TO DIE…THE V.A. HATES SURVIVORS

    1. Kris A Hovey    

      Hi Michael
      Please try to remember that the Choice Program was set up by the Congress not the VA. The system was designed to be a failure. The goal of the Republican “leadership” in the House and Senate is to privatize the VA health care system to award Billions to their loyal campaign donors.
      Kris

  2. Kris A Hovey    

    The VA here in Asheville NC is great.

  3. Thomas g.boyd    

    I am disgusted about the time it takes the VA regional office in Chicago to process claims.

  4. Tom Perkins    

    Overall I have a very good experience receiving all of my numerous health care needs through the VA. However, the VA seems to be the epitome of bureaucratic inefficiency. One small example that regularly affects me is how hard it it so get RX’s prescribed by non VA providers, especially when need on an urgent basis. It is IMPOSSIBLE to leave a non VA ER , and then go directly to a pharmacy to pick up a needed RX.

    This needs to be changed.

    I have plenty of other suggestions for improvement if anyone at the VA cares to listen.

  5. stan burch    

    The Va wasted 10 billon on Choice and you are left bills can’t get apps. for test when your
    doc tells you could have a heart attach. Why would another program be any different?

  6. Serena    

    Well, the technology is taking us so swiftly as mentioned n the first paragraph. Considering the bigger picture, I always had good experience receiving health care needs through VA.

  7. Keith A. Markovitch    

    If you can’t get your doctor’s to stay up to date on all the health initiative guide lines such as low dose cancer screening many people like myself will fall by the way side. I was told that because I stopped smoking 15 years ago the V.A. did not feel this test necessary . Lucky for me I persisted and paid to have the screening done because I now have to go thru the anxiety of waiting to see what follow scans will show and tell about the scaring and nodule in my lung . One of your doctor’s has cost me valuable time because he is not up on the Medicare /V.A. joint standards. Also because the V. A. Refused this scan now I have to hassle with getting reports and films out of the private sector for the V.A.’s viewing pleasure . I would be anxious to know how many ex smokers the V.a. is refusing to scan for possible lung problems. You don’t even offer routine chest extracts.

  8. DannyG    

    This is not the place for this comment, but it is the spot for some good news. I WANT TO THANK VA POLICE DETECTIVE NEIL WILKENDORF! I was pretty ticked off that the Mather VA Police had made me jump thru hoops to register my service dog, then discontinued the program, & trashed the paperwork. Not only did I (finally) get a call back, but Neil was the one that actually did the paperwork, & remembered Gypsy Girl & I. When he heard someone talking abt us, He took the time to call, & even sent me an email verifying that Gypsy was registered with them!
    Det. Wilkendorf could have said the program was defunct, & hung up, but he didn’t! Thank you, Neil, for going the “extra mile” to help a brother vet out! Not bad for a VA employee – & a cop too! THANKS, BROTHER!

  9. Andrew Joseph Brenn    

    Why did the VA decided to quit giving me a medicine ( Crestor) that controls my cholesterol and puts me on the generic drug for Lipitor that I had tried before and it didn’t help before . My N P tried to keep me on Crestor but was told no. I am serviced connected.

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