VA believes that one person can make a difference, which is why we crowd-source solutions from front-line staff to solve challenges. Every year, the VA Employee Innovation Competitions gather innovative ideas to improve quality, access and transparency of care for Veterans. The competitions provide winning innovators with funding and support necessary to turn their ideas into reality.
More than 2,000 ideas were submitted by VA employees and contractors as part of the 2016 Employee Innovation Competition. The ideas were then scored by an innovation advisory group and narrowed down to 16 projects.
VA staff involved with the winning ideas were invited to participate in Innovator Boot Camp — that event is taking place today and tomorrow in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow #VAInnovatorBootCamp16 for live tweets from the event.
The Advanced Environmental Controls unit won the VHA Employee Competition in 2011 and is now implemented at 13 VA sites. The innovation empowers Veterans with spinal cord injuries with tools to enable them to have better control over their surroundings and improve their quality of life.
The Innovator Boot Camp is the first step in the process of transforming an idea into a tangible solution. The two-day event, sponsored by the Veterans Health Administration’s Innovation Program, brings the winning VA innovators together to learn the practical skills to implement their innovation. The boot camp includes sessions on how to use contracts, how to write a statement of work, how to collect metrics and other important tactics to convert from an idea submitter to an innovator.
“Winning innovators emerge from the Innovator Boot Camp with an understanding of how to amplify their ideas into regular practices across the VA,” said VHA Innovation Program acting director Michael Cortright who has witnessed multiple employee ideas successfully transition into regular practices and spread across the country.
A few examples of the winning projects from past years competitions that have successfully moved forward include:
- Advanced Environmental Controls (AEC) unit: This innovation enables Veterans with spinal cord injuries and severe disabilities to perform several tasks independently, such as call for a nurse, adjust the bed, make a phone call, use social media, control the television and more. The AEC unit idea won the VHA Employee Competition in 2011 and is currently implemented at 12 VA facilities, serving 5,000+ Veterans.
- Veteran “X” program: This program is a peer-led mental health recovery program in which the participants serve as the treatment team for a fictitious Veteran “X.” While empowering Veteran “X” to solve issues, the participants also gain valuable recovery skills to resolve their own concerns. The Veteran “X” program was a recipient of a 2012 VHA Innovation Award, and since then has implemented a Veteran “X” Facilitator Training Curriculum at 22 VA facilities.
- After Visit Summary: Patients sometimes have difficulty accurately remembering information provided by their VA care team during outpatient visits. To address this issue, another winner of the VHA Employee Innovation Competition came up with the idea for an automated “After Visit Summary” tool. This tool creates a patient-friendly, personalized summary of key information from outpatient visits, making it easier for Veterans to recall important information accurately. The After Visit Summary includes medications, patient instructions, and the dates and times of follow-up appointments and tests.
The impact and value of the innovation competitions has been recognized by Veterans, VA staff who benefit from the outcome of those projects that are implemented, as well as by VA and VHA leadership.
To learn more about the VHA Innovation Program, visit https://connectedcare.va.gov/innovation#about.
You can also follow along with the #VHAInnovationBootCamp16 today on Twitter.
Allison Amrhein, MPH is an innovation coordinator with the VHA Innovation Program and has worked with the Veterans Health Administration for the past eight years. She is co-leading the 2016 VHA Employee Innovation Competition activities.