Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate passed a Department of Veterans Affairs health reform bill in response to scandals in patient care at VA centers. The $16.3-billion bill,signed by President Barack Obama, includes measures that will attempt to overhaul information technology and introduce telemedicine procedures at VA clinics and hospitals.
But who’s going to implement these reforms? Infield Health President Doug Naegele talked with G2Xchange Health Cofounders David Blackburn and Eric Klos to understand how the bill might create new opportunities for health entrepreneurs.
Can you talk for a minute about how some of the bill’s provisions make room for entrepreneurs?
This bill has a number of specific information technology mandates for the VA that are ripe for innovation. Many of the mandates are a direct response to excessive wait times, the need for information sharing when our veterans access care outside the VA, and the gaming that was done by VA staff to hide wait time issues at VA facilities. Three examples of opportunity areas for entrepreneurs include:
1) Digital Waiting List – You may have seen billboards on the highway that show the Emergency Room wait time at a local hospital. This is an example of the type of transparency that would permit veterans to monitor the average wait times by facility and type of care.
2) The VA has 90 days to establish a system to monitor and issue Veterans a “Veterans Choice Card,” which will facilitate the receipt of care from non-VA health providers.
3) Data for patient safety, quality of care and outcomes must be extrapolated from the existing VA electronic health records (VistA) and published as a comprehensive database within 180 days. This data must be “fed”’ into the HHS Hospital Compare website. Again, transparency is a key driver for the VA.
Is there anything unique to the VA system that might benefit entrepreneurs creating new health solutions?
The VA has been a strong advocate for open-source solutions and helped stand up an open-source ecosystem. The Open Source Electronic Health Record Association was established as a not-for-profit, independent organization responsible for supporting the rapid introduction of innovation to VA’s EHR through an “open, collaborative community of users, developers and companies engaged in advancing EHR software and health information technology.” Many entrepreneurs are developing their solutions in an open source framework and thus they could already be prepared for seamless integration into the existing VistA environment and the future VistA Evolution.
How do you recommend entrepreneurs get “in process” with the VA? How is it different than pitching a new solution to a local, private hospital?
In 2012, following the success of the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) in which five employee challenges and three industry competitions were held that generated 19,000 ideas, of which 135 were selected for implementation, Secretary Eric Shinseki transitioned the initiative into the permanent VA Center for Innovation.
VACI looks to a variety of groups and sectors across the country for innovative ideas, including start-ups, industry leaders, academic and research facilities, and VA employees. The center targets solutions that can be developed, piloted, and evaluated for broader deployment within a span of 12 to 24 months. The VACI is the place to start if you have an innovative solution that would benefit the provision of veterans’ care. Unlike a local, private hospital, VA IT decision-making and budget allocations are centralized so entrepreneurs need to work with the VACI which ultimately decides on the pilot environment for the solutions selected.
G2Xchange Health is an online resource and community portal for business development professionals and executives charged with winning federal health IT business. Led by David Blackburn and Eric Klos, G2X Health provides a combination of critical intelligence about top contract opportunities and the relevant news, information and insights that will save our members time and money while giving them an advantage over the competition. Reach out to us at any time if you want to discuss how to market to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services or the Defense Health Agency.
Doug Naegele is the CEO of Infield Health. David Blackburn and Eric Klos are with GXEchange, where this post first appeared.