Innovation is essential to delivering modern, high-quality health care. Embracing new technologies and exploring groundbreaking techniques is not only encouraged at VA — it’s celebrated.
Take a look at 3D printing, a relatively new technology with a myriad of applications to health care.
Back in 2017, we were an early adopter of 3D printing, establishing an integrated virtual printing network for creating hand and foot orthotics, replicating organs and planning surgeries. The network has now grown to 40 hospitals across the country.
“This 3D printing technology is all about empowering our frontline staff and patients to advocate for what they need and then to build it,” said Beth Ripley, MD, Ph.D., director of VHA’s 3D Printing Network and chair of the 3D Printing Advisory Committee.
VA pushed even further in 2020. The department can now print medical devices onsite, allowing us to deliver more efficient, personalized care to Veterans.
We were also able to rise to several challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to develop a 3D-printed nasopharyngeal swab and creating face mask design challenges to address problems encountered by health care workers and first responders.
How was this quick action possible? Because, according to Ripley, VA culture is “non-siloed, integrated and collaborative.”
We don’t innovate from the top down. We encourage our employees, at all levels of the organization, to be part of the process.
Through Innovation Ecosystem programs, over 25,000 of our employees have received training, engaged in innovation competitions or led implementation of promising new practices. We’ve positively impacted the lives of more than one million Veterans and saved $40 million since 2015.
Changes don’t have to be solely made on a large scale. Small, local changes can have an equally big impact on the quality of care we’re able to deliver to more than 9 million Veterans across the nation.
Some innovations inspired by our employees in 2020 include:
- A device that dispenses only one eye drop at a time, helping Veterans who struggle with reduced vision and manual dexterity.
- A 10-week health education group to address health care disparity for LGBTQ+ Veterans.
- A software system that helps reduce six- to 12-month wait times for prosthetics.
- Virtual reality therapy to help Veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Wearable sensors to help improve COVID-19 patient outcomes as well as readmissions for heart failure.
- Augmented reality microscopes that leverage artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning models to detect and classify cancers.
“The status quo is not enough — if we continue to do what we have always done, we will get the results we have always gotten,” reads the VHA State of Innovation Report.
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We are always looking for clinical and non-clinical professionals who want to be part of this culture of change and improvement. Discover if a career at VA is right for you.