Dr. Arash Harzand is taking an old-school approach to Veteran health care with new-school technologies. Health care used to be a very home-based experience, with local doctors coming to visit their patients for most maladies that did not require a hospital visit. Now, health care is coming back home to our Veterans.
Dr. Harzand’s Digital Cardiology Program at the Atlanta VA Health Care System (HCS) aggressively focuses on integrating Veteran-facing technologies – including video-to-home, wearable devices, and remote monitoring – into new-care pathways for heart disease that are expanding Veteran access to cardiology services.
As a member of the new cohort of Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) Innovation Fellows, Dr. Harzand will focus on expanding this innovation’s impact.
The VHA IE Fellowship Program builds workforce capacity through the development of emerging and senior leaders to become innovation agents capable of championing solutions that will improve health care for Veterans. As a Senior Innovation Fellow, Harzand’s groundbreaking work in Digital Cardiology is already mature and ready to scale. The VHA IE Fellowship Program will give him the time and support to enable the expansion of telecardiology services through widespread implementation – and clinical integration – of virtual cardiac care. The work will focus on Veteran-facing technologies and the construction of a centralized pathway to identify and evaluate virtual cardiac solutions in partnership with the VA Office of Research and Development.
“My primary goal as an Innovation Fellow is to serve as a catalyst for VA’s expansion of telehealth into specialty care, with a focus on telecardiology,” said Dr. Harzand. “My aim is to advance VA’s digital cardiovascular services, especially given the current pandemic, and support the advancement of the ‘Hospital-at-Home’ model so that Veterans can receive the care they earned no matter where they are.”
Dr. Harzand will do this in much the same way he developed a “virtual first” cardiology care system at Atlanta VA HCS.
Veterans have a disproportionately high burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to non-Veterans, meaning a transition to operating as a “virtual first” service was vital to the Cardiology Department’s ability to maintain access for the large number of Veterans with heart disease at Atlanta VA HCS. Despite VA’s position as an early telehealth adopter, the majority of services were for primary care, not specialized services. Undeterred by these challenges, and the need for quick adoption due to COVID-19, Dr. Harzand was able to develop a Virtual Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and expand that work into a comprehensive digital cardiology service line in Atlanta.
Now, with the time and support offered by the VHA IE Fellowship Program, Dr. Harzand will work to make his innovation VA-wide. More so, he can develop and create tools that will allow other specialty care departments to easily set up and implement their own virtual care systems, delivering a home visit from a wide variety of care professionals through new technology.