On Sept. 7, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) convened a bipartisan hearing to highlight the Diffusion of Excellence – a VA initiative to improve the consistency of care delivered in the VA health system. The goal of the initiative is to identify and spread best practices, ensuring that patients receive the highest-quality of medical care, regardless of location. Through the Diffusion of Excellence Initiative and the VA Innovators Network, VA identified innovative programs pioneered at individual VA centers and selected 13 as “Gold Status Practices,” which VA facilities across the country have been implementing throughout 2016.

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, deputy under secretary for Health for Organizational Excellence, and Dr. Shereef Elnahal, senior advisor for best practices in the Veterans Health Administration, presented the initiative to the committee alongside two front-line VA innovators – Dr. Kimberly Garner, the associate director for Education and Evaluation for VISN 16, and Scott Bryant, innovation specialist for e-screening at Chillicothe VA Medical Center.The pair represented hundreds of front-line employees who have taken the initiative to improve their local care environments.

Mr. Scott Bryant testifying at the SVAC hearing

Scott Bryant testifying at the SVAC hearing

The hearing also covered several other important topics affecting Veterans treated within Veterans Health Administration, such as suicide prevention, telemedicine, and the need to control rising drug prices – all  to improve the experiences of Veterans and the employees who serve them.

After Clancy’s oral statement, the panelists answered questions posed by the committee members about the initiative, the Innovators Network, the future role of gold status facilities and for other information such as advance directive metrics and measures, and the plan to support Veterans not accustomed to using  advanced technology with the e-screening practice.

“Personally, I’m proud of all 13 of our gold status practices and all of the fellows and implementing fellows that are getting them done … clinical pharmacy specialists, one of our best practices, improved access to primary care by 27 percent by allowing clinical pharmacists to have their own clinics, their own consult service to manage medication services,” said Elnahal.

On the topic of best practices, one senator remarked “the liver tumor board is one of the best practices highlighted in your testimony today. In the past 10 years, the number of liver cancer patients in the Veteran population has increased tenfold. I am pleased to see the VA taking aggressive steps to treat liver cancer. I am also pleased to see the creative use of telemedicine.”

The VA Innovators Network encourages employees to innovate and apply those innovations on the front lines to improve the Veteran experience. Through the VHA Innovation Program, employee ideas are transformed into reality after they are implemented, some of which become best practices. The Diffusion of Excellence Initiative identifies and disseminates these best practices and others across the Veterans Health System.

SVAC members were especially interested to hear more about VHA’s work in opioid management, Hepatitis C and access to care for Veterans living in highly rural areas. VA is providing the information to elected leaders and will do their best to make sure that Veterans across the country can benefit from these innovative practices.

Video from the full hearing can be found here.

About the authors: Shereef Elnahal, M.D., senior advisor to the Under Secretary for Health; and Andrea Ippolito, the leader of the VA Innovators Networkcontributed to this blog.


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Published on Oct. 6, 2016

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