VA turning to mHealth to improve care for veterans

Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is constantly trying to improve its services for veterans. One of the programs, VA mHealth, introduces technologies that expand clinical care beyond the traditional office visit.

VA apps are developed for both veterans and VA care teams, offering safe and secure mobile access to patient data, and providing more opportunities for veterans to be active participants in their health care.

The Department has been using pilots as part of its development strategy for VA mHealth apps since 2011. Through the evaluation of these apps, VA has incorporated user feedback and design enhancements to move apps from pilot tests to national release for use by all veterans and caregivers.

The VA mHealth current and future pilots

VA mHealth family caregiver pilot
More than 1,000 seriously injured post-9/11 veterans and their caregivers are currently participating in a 12-month pilot program. In June 2013, participants received VA-loaned iPads with a suite of apps that provided them and their caregivers with secure access to healthcare information, and the ability to track personal health-related information, and while enabling sharing of this information with VA healthcare teams.

VA mHealth provider program
Beginning in early 2014, VA tested a Suite of Apps developed by and for VA clinicians as part of a program designed to bring mobile solutions to VA clinicians. Providers from up to 18 VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) will participate to test how mobile access to patient information affects accessibility, productivity, workflow and communications across VA care teams. This program expands upon a clinician pilot conducted in 2011.

Completed Pilots

Veteran Appointment Request App Pilot (VAR)
Veterans at the Washington, D.C. and Palo Alto VAMCs participated in the VAR app pilot. The pilot provided veterans with an online/mobile option to facilitate scheduling of primary care and mental health appointments with their VA health care teams. VA is currently making changes to the app based on feedback from the pilot, in preparation for a wider launch.

VA mHealth MyStory app pilot
This pilot took place in 2013 and included veterans and other patients from several VAMCs across the country. Using the provided MyStory app, patients were allowed to identify what is most important to them in terms of life and wellness goals and — with the help of support teams — implement a plan to achieve those goals. The application also enabled patients to share the information with their support teams, including their VA health care team, family and friends, life coach, support group, personal trainer. The Department is making changes to the app based on feedback from pilot participants and members of their health care teams in preparation for a second pilot phase.

VA mHealth Browser pilot
In June 2012, VA launched its mHealth Browser pilot to develop apps that run on mobile browsers to increase efficiency, convenience and accessibility of VA healthcare across multiple platforms. Pilots in several locations provided clinicians, caregivers and veterans with the tools they needed to better manage their healthcare information. In addition to increasing communication between VA care teams and patients, the mHealth Browser also allowed veterans to export their data and make online requests for primary care and mental health appointments. VA has implemented the feedback and results from this pilot to make the app commercially available in 2014.

VA mHealth Clinician pilot
Conducted during the fall of 2011, the mHealth Clinician pilot focused on delivering mobile solutions to VA clinicians. It provided mobile access to patient information; improved accessibility, productivity and workflow for pilot participants; and analyzed security-related issues associated with mobile devices on VA’s network at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center. Thirty VA clinicians tested iPhone and iPad Apps that made critical information from a patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) available in real time and on the go.

Great thing for veterans is that VA recognize importance of mHealth technologies and is trying its best to use it to enhance the patient experience.

The VA Mobile Health initiative is led by the Connected Health Office’s Web and Mobile Solutions team; Connected Health is aligned under the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Informatics and Analytics.

Happy Veterans Day
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