146 teams of employee innovators are about to be given the tools and training to further develop their innovative ideas. They are this year’s VHA Innovators Network (iNET) Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment Program (Spark-Seed-Spread Program) Investees – and their work will help forge the future of Veteran care.

Spark-Seed-Spread asks employees to identify a problem and their early-stage ideas they think might be successful at solving the problem, while always encouraging continued flexibility and an open mind to iterate as new discoveries are made. The program provides selected recipients resources and support to operationalize their early-stage innovations. Selections are determined by iNET facility leadership and national subject matter experts. “Spark, Seed, and Spread” each refer to the maturity level of an employee’s idea for an innovative solution.

The new teams of employees will join more than 500 previous Investees and receive resources to advance their innovative solution into a reality but will go through the Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Accelerator (Accelerator). Run like a business start-up, the Accelerator supports these early-stage ideas through education and consists of a process of intense, rapid, and immersive education aimed at accelerating the life cycle of young innovative ideas. The Accelerator compresses years’ worth of learning-by-doing into just a few months and provides resources like human-centered design training, lean start-up education, pitch design and lessons in storytelling.

“The education and solid support structure that comprise the Spark-Seed-Spread Accelerator program have given me the freedom and confidence to approach challenges in a whole new way! The Innovators Network has also given me an opportunity to meet passionate, collaborative, and like-minded people to change the very landscape of VHA,” said Bill Corcuera, Cleveland VAMC Innovation Specialist

The work done here can go on to change not only Veteran care but health care across the country, with many solutions first fostered in iNET going on to spread into nationwide programs that even migrate outside of VA. This year’s Spark-Seed-Spread Program investments include:

  • A program designed to reduce communications bottlenecks at Community Nursing Homes
  • A practice to engage Veterans with serious mental illness in their care
  • A chair that makes breast biopsy more functional, efficient and comfortable
  • SMS prescription reminders that allow Veterans to initiate the refill process
  • In-house glasses manufacturing
  • A rowing machine that helps stimulate paralyzed Veterans’ muscles

iNET consists of 34 VHA facilities throughout the country and implements robust innovation programming and support to build a culture of innovation across the VHA. Launched in 2015 it is a community of VHA employees who are actively moving VA forward using innovation to better serve Veterans and their families. iNET takes a ground-up approach to innovation by using the firsthand knowledge of frontline employees to identify some of VA’s greatest challenges and develop both Veteran- and employee-centric solutions. Its impact reaches across VHA’s entire health care network, impacting thousands of VA employees and millions of Veterans.

Learn more about the Spark, Seed and Spread investment levels and how the Accelerator aids Investees to nurture, grow and spread their ideas. You can find a full list of this year’s Spark-Seed-Spread Program investments and Investees on iNET’s website.

By 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 Oct. 1, 2021

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