Whether you are a Veteran or a health care provider, chances are you use technology daily as a tool to obtain information, access resources quickly or simply to make your life easier. For example, finding out what time a movie is playing via your smartphone, checking in for a flight using your tablet or paying a bill online with the help of your laptop are just simply the way life works in today’s world. Technology enables you, in your own life, to make decisions every day. Have you ever considered the possibilities for how it can serve as a powerful tool for your VA health care provider to enhance the care they provide Veterans?
At VA, we are excited about a one-year-old initiative – the VA Mobile Health Provider Program – that is leveraging the power of mobile technology to better connect Veteran patients with their VA care teams. This program is working to equip VA health care teams with mobile technology, such as mobile devices and mobile applications (apps), to improve health care delivery to Veterans.
In 2014 we equipped more than 7,000 providers at 18 VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) with tablets. Over the next year, the program will expand to more than 25 additional VAMCs. With mobile technology directly at their fingertips, VA care teams are empowered to provide better care to patients, both inside and outside the traditional office visit, in the bricks and mortar of a VA health care center or clinic.
So far, we have received encouraging feedback from VA providers about how these mobile devices have greatly improved their ability to provide timely care for our Veterans. For example, Dr. Frank Liu at the Washington DC VAMC emailed me to tell me how useful his mobile device was one day after he received his mobile device. He was called to read preliminary results for a patient while outside of the VA facility. Because the devices are able to access information anywhere – via Wi-Fi or cellular service – he was able to instantly retrieve the information. He realized his patient was in critical danger and contacted his on-call team. Thanks to his mobile device, he had immediate access to information, which allowed the provider to ensure that his patient received the critical and timely care that was needed. Stories like this demonstrate how access to mobile technology has already had a positive impact on patient care.
Other providers across the country are using mobile technology to improve health care delivery in a variety of ways. For example, Dr. Leslee Davis at the Orlando VAMC uses her device to display medical images that help patients understand medical options. “I recently used my tablet with a patient who thought she had a certain dermatological condition. I brought up the dermatology app, showed her some pictures, and thanks to the clear visual, she quickly realized that she was going to be okay. This is a great tool,” said Dr. Davis.
Dr. Sarah Niles at the Tomah VAMC places instant orders directly to the lab, pharmacy, or radiology while remaining at her patient’s bedside. “If I’m bedside with a patient who is not stable and I don’t want to leave them, I can now use my device to send orders directly to the laboratory, radiology, or pharmacy,” said Dr. Niles. These are just a few example of countless ways in which providers are taking advantage of these devices to enhance health care delivery.
As the program enters its second year, privacy and security remain top of mind. All VA providers who participate in this program are required to take training with detailed guidance for protecting privacy and ensuring information security when using mobile devices and mobile apps. We will remain vigilant to ensure Veteran data is kept safe.
As the program evolves over the course of the next year, so will the opportunities to use mobile technology to improve Veterans’ health care. VA will release a series of mobile health (mHealth) apps that will provide mobile-optimized access to real-time VA electronic patient records to inform clinical decisions. These apps will enable providers to write progress notes, enter a subset of orders, and complete other clinical tasks, as well as support specific common workflows.
Building upon the successes of My HealtheVet, Blue Button, and other Connected Health technologies, the VA Mobile Health Provider Program is transforming VA into a 21st century health care organization. Providing increased access to mobile health technologies supports our vision of a patient-centered health care delivery model, as well as underscores our commitment to transform the way care is delivered and to improve health care coordination between Veterans and their care teams.
This VA initiative is positive proof of VA’s ability to leverage mobile technology by placing its full capabilities in the hands of patients, family caregivers and health care teams.
Visit VA Mobile’s website for more information about the program and to read more about how we are enhancing care for Veterans and their family caregivers through mobile technology: http://mobile.va.gov/providers.
Deyne Bentt, MD, CPHIMS, is the Chief Health Information Officer at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center. Dr. Bentt is also the Clinical Director of Mobile Health Deployment and Evaluation within the Veterans Health Administration’s Connected Health Office.