The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SGVHS) is part of VA’s Innovators Network, and is one of 36 hubs across the country. Hubs focus on improving care for Veterans using innovative and shareable practices.

“The innovation program here provides an opportunity for every employee to get engaged in their work,” said Julie Whitney, VA’s 2020 Innovation Specialist of the Year. “It brings new ideas, tools, and experiences to their work setting with the goal of improving Veterans’ experiences.”

The innovation program helps spread new ideas and practices at the local level. It also helps share innovation nationally.

“The program is based on the Human Centered Design approach,” Whitney added. “It’s a problem solving, design-based discipline that quickly moves ideas from concept to prototype so that it can be tested with participants to see if it works.”

Employees passionate about solving toughest challenges

Each year, the Innovation program offers employees the opportunity to submit their ideas to a national Diffusion of Excellence Shark Tank competition. The competition shines a spotlight on employees who are passionate about solving some of the toughest challenges across VHA.

This year, seven of our projects have made it to the semifinals round.

One of the many innovative projects submitted was led by Clinical Pharmacy Supervisor Dr. Jessica Franck, who has helped establish a guideline-based tool for prescribing antidepressant medications to geriatric patients.

“Some of these medications can pose safety risks such as confusion, agitation, delirium, falls and cognitive decline,” Franck said. “Incorporating a new tool that supports clinical decisions has enhanced overall patient safety in this instance.”

Franck’s work showed a statistically significant improvement in health outcomes that suggest the implementation of the new tool works.

New tool that supports clinical decisions

Another one of Franck’s innovations that has led to positive health outcomes for Veterans was her work to create a new tool that supports clinical decisions for one of the most common preventable causes of death in hospitalized patients. The new tool guides prescribers to guideline-based recommendations to reduce the probability of complications for patients at risk for venous thromboembolism. This condition is potentially life-threatening and can occur during hospitalization. Read more here.

Another innovator, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist Dr. Andrew Franck (Dr. Jessica Franck’s spouse), has conducted work to help reduce the harmful effects associated with overfeeding patients receiving nutrition intravenously.

“Overfeeding is a potential risk for these patients, and the development of infections and other complications makes this initiative an important one,” Andrew said.

His innovation has led to fewer cases of central line-associated bloodstream infections, instances of patients exhibiting high blood sugar and liver dysfunction. Learn more.

Dr. Andrew Franck (left) and pharmacist Andrew Hendrickson are pictured above.

“The innovative work led by employees here never seems to stop,” Whitney said. “I think it’s a testament to how we strive towards making our patient’s experience the best we can.”

The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System is one of the nation’s leading VA health care systems. It employs more than 5,800 medical professionals and support staff. They provide high quality care to Veterans residing throughout North Florida and South Georgia. The system operates 14 facilities, including medical centers located in Gainesville and Lake City, a domiciliary, and clinics located throughout a 50-county service area. 

By Melanie L. Thomas is a public affairs officer for the Gainesville VAMC

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Published on Jul. 15, 2021

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