While innovation at VA can be as simple as a toothbrush, two award-winning projects are using new technologies to help Veterans. Remote Temperature Monitoring (RTM) for the Prevention of Diabetic Foot Ulcers and Smart White Cane for the Blind deliver innovative health technology that was homegrown at VA through the staff and Veterans themselves. The two innovations are supported through the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) and are already impacting and saving Veteran lives.

RTM is a highly successful partnership program initiated and supported by VHA IE. Using equipment and technology created by a company called Podimetrics, the program supplies at-risk, diabetic Veterans with SmartMats that use thermal imaging to measure the temperature of a Veteran’s foot, analyzing them for diabetic foot ulcers. The results for Veterans are nothing short of staggering and lifesaving. Early data at participating sites has suggested that the Podimetrics system results in a near elimination of all severe ulcers, use of an expensive graft product, and major amputations. The mats are now available to Veterans who are at the highest risk for amputation at 40 VA medical centers and growing.

Smart White Cane for the Blind is a cane designed for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The current prototype incorporates various sensors and processors to aid in navigation and safety while walking. It leverages object detection and avoidance technology that fits the standard orientation and mobility device used in blind rehabilitation, the white cane. Created by Brian Higgins, a blind rehab specialist at VA Palo Alto Health Care System, with support from VHA Innovators Network and the National Center for Collaborative Healthcare Innovation, VA’s innovative version will exceed the capabilities of the very few commercially available smart canes on the market today. Higgins is currently in the development phase and continues to iterate on the current prototype based on lessons learned from users.

Both these innovations are now being honored for their impact on Veterans’ lives and health care as a whole. The pair have received the prestigious American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) Innovation Award this year. They will be honored at this year’s Emerging Technology and Innovation Conference, where they will be celebrated with other national leaders in health care innovation. The ACT-IAC awards recognize and promote the best innovations that improve services to citizens and government operations across all sectors.

These solutions only scratch the surface of the innovative and boundary-breaking work VHA IE does across its portfolios. VHA IE is the catalyst for enabling the discovery and spread of mission-driven health care innovation to advance care delivery and service that exceeds expectations, restores hope and builds trust within the Veteran community. You can learn more about its work and how it is forging the future of Veteran care here.


Allison Amrhein is the director of operations for the VHA Innovators Network and communications lead for the VHA Innovation Ecosystem.

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Published on May. 28, 2021

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