It’s hard to innovate. It’s even harder to spread that innovation successfully. This is something the VHA Innovation Ecosystem’s (VHA IE’s) Diffusion of Excellence (Diffusion) portfolio knows well. Since 2016, Diffusion has developed, scaled and applied repeatable, inclusive frameworks that enable Promising Practices developed by VHA frontline employees to deliver broader impact to Veteran lives. The result is the successful replicating of Promising Practices more than 800 times and the support of 10 national practices that are impacting the lives of Veterans across the country. Now VA is sharing this strategy publicly – with the VHA Diffusion Playbook (Diffusion Playbook) – so other health care organizations can join the mission of forging a healthier future through innovation.

Introducing the VHA Diffusion of Excellence Playbook

The Diffusion Playbook functions as a practical guide to diffusing innovative practices across an organization’s ecosystem and beyond. It also shows organizations unique ways to empower their workforces, make their innovative efforts more readily accessible and understandable to peers and leadership, and unlock and amplify impacts. Just as a coach would before a big game, the Diffusion Playbook anticipates challenges and prepares the team to adapt and overcome barriers to reach the end goal. The playbook is easy to understand and quick to grasp, providing more of a “bread-crumb trail” than a prescribed, formal manual.

VA has built an effective, accessible and scalable innovation strategy that can truly impact the way that health care organizations around the world develop and advance innovative solutions from their own employees. The best innovation comes from those that are on the frontlines, and the Diffusion Playbook gives organizations the means to discover, diffuse, and grow this work into new health care practices that save and improve the lives of their patients.

Since Diffusion of Excellence’s inception, frontline employees have submitted 2,761 practices to the VHA Shark Tank Competition, which is used as an exciting and engaging way to discover employee innovation and match it with facilities where it can thrive. From this effort, 69 Promising Practices have been selected and given support and guidance in building out successful innovations into replicable programs with leadership support from both individual facilities and VHA itself. Not only that, but each program has its impact tracked with the understanding that failures can – and will – happen, emphasizing the ability to pivot and attack issues in new ways.

Discover the Playbook

If you’re involved in health care or work with a health care organization, now is your chance to discover the Diffusion Playbook. VHA IE wants to work with you to improve health care for all. We encourage everyone, from health care leaders to Veterans themselves, to take a look at the Diffusion Playbook then reach out to us at with feedback or to start a conversation.

By Blake Henderson is the director of the Diffusion Excellence

Share this story

Published on Oct. 8, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.3 min.

Views to date: 425

More Stories

  • In this four-part series on VA's Emergency Preparedness Simulation efforts, you'll see how simulation and emergency preparedness professionals build collective strategies that mitigate, prepare, respond, and recover from tragedies impacting Veterans and their communities.

  • A VA employee donated a kidney to his friend and VA coworker, providing the gift of life. Doctors said 100% match almost impossible.

  • The PACT Act will help VA provide health care and benefits to millions of toxic-exposed Veterans and their survivors. Veterans have already begun to apply for the benefits.