The face of health care has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Shifts in care thanks to the unique nature of the past 18 months have led to medical innovations that are changing what Veterans and the public expect from their care. During the second Veterans Health Administration Innovation Experience (iEX) Virtual Series event, Forging a Healthier Future: Post-Pandemic Care, health care innovators from VA and leaders in the innovation community came together to lay out how these changes will impact care moving forward.

The hour-long panel discussion took place Sept. 15 and featured Brynn Cole, governmentlead on the Reimagining Veteran Healthcare Human-Centered Design (HCD) project for VHA Innovation Ecosystem, having an insightful discussion with John Sinher, executive director of Blue Spoon Consulting; Robert M. Califf, MD, MACC, head of Clinical Policy and Strategy at Verily and Google Health; John W. Boerstler, chief Veterans experience officer, VA; and Saurabha Bhatnagar, MD, chief health officer at Commure. The discussion took a close look at how VHA is tackling the pandemic—its impact on American lives, how health care has changed, the current state of American health, and the path forward for care.

“It’s a little bit hard, in this moment, to even be thinking about post-pandemic care,” Cole said as she opened the event, acknowledging that citizens are still feeling the impacts of COVID-19 right now. However, the panel’s discussion on how care has changed and will change was important to have.

VHA was strategically placed for the pandemic, having already been at the forefront of care models like telehealth, remote monitoring, and other innovative health care practices that allowed the largest health care network in the country to pivot its care quickly at the onset of COVID-19. During the pandemic, it was VA innovation and collaboration that helped rapidly develop 3D-printed personal protective gear, provide easy and trusted communication, ensure that at-risk Veterans could still get meals, and deliver new tools for tackling the pandemic.

“One thing that we had to do immediately is going to the virtual world,” said Boester. “VA pivoted incredibly well in the March of 2020, shifting most of the workforce outside of clinical to the virtual world but also making sure that we can deliver telehealth appointment. And you saw record numbers of telehealth appointments.”

That is the kind of rapid change that will drive the future of not only VA care, but health care across the country. VA is prepared to lead the way, as it did with telehealth options. As the orthodoxies of health care continue to evolve, people are certain to see a refined model of care that is focused on health, not sickness.

“[The pandemic] reaffirmed just how far we have to go in the health care ecosystem in the United States to truly get towards preventative care,” said Singer. “I think VA is really well-positioned to drive this for many reasons … Many people forget that it’s not just the pillar of health care delivery but research and education. So, there are so many different aspects of how VA can enable that, and I’ve seen those elements shift over the past year.”

The 2021 iEX Virtual Series is open to everyone and presents an exciting way to discover the health care innovations and VA employees that will impact lives. Register today for instant access to a recording of this event, the Breaking Boundaries: Collaboration Challenge, and make sure you catch the upcoming third event, Breaking Boundaries: Using Innovation to Advance Health Equity, and the Marquee Event live. Don’t miss another moment of this exciting virtual series! Once registered, people will not only be signed up for all 2021 iEX programs but will also gain access to the iEX Virtual Event Platform where they can connect with other Veterans, innovators, and industry leaders right now!

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By VAntage Point Contributor

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Published on Sep. 30, 2021

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