Page 16 - CARAHSOFT, May 2021
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Digitally Transforming the Customer Experience
Executive Viewpoint
A conversation with
Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Information and Technology, IT Operations and Services, Department of Veterans Affairs
A technology leader talks about what the pandemic taught the VA about telehealth, telework and the ability to innovate quickly
How did the VA expand access to telehealth during the pandemic, and how did that affect the delivery of medical care to veterans? Pre-pandemic, we had a pretty robust telehealth program and the technology to support it. We were handling about 2,400 or so video connections between providers and veterans on any given day. But during the pandemic, that increased by about 1,700%. Now we have around 40,000 clinical video encounters a day.
Obviously, one of the first things we had to do was expand our capacity. We did that with our existing solution, and we also introduced a scalable option
in the cloud. It’s very quick to expand if we need to, and it certainly helped us stay ahead of the unprecedented demand that we experienced.
Telehealth helped us maintain that continuity of care and connection between our veterans and our providers. Some 3.8 million video encounters were performed during fiscal year 2020. All that interaction allowed veterans, as well as providers who couldn’t travel in, to respect social distancing protocols while at the same time allowing us to maintain our mission to provide care to our veterans.
We’ve also worked on delivering other functionality that veterans need. For
example, we had some really wonderful products delivered very, very quickly by our digital services team — things like support for COVID-19 vaccination scheduling. We also have an app called
“I am Here” so that a veteran arriving for an appointment can send a message from the parking lot that “I’m here” and start the check-in process while maintaining social distancing.
Those kinds of applications were readily adapted and made available through DevSecOps or agile delivery. It’s another area of modernization where we’re not only modernizing the technology but the way we deliver it.
What role does the Electronic Health Record Modernization program play in the VA’s efforts to improve service delivery?
From the time people are inducted
into active duty in the military to their final honor and burial, they would have one electronic medical record instead of multiple instances. With multiple instances, you’ve got a continuity issue. You’ve got to find the records, you’ve got to assemble them, and you’ve got to repeat some medical care because you don’t have access to everything.
The EHR program allows us to have continuous records throughout the lifespan
We really need to make IT an enabler
so that we’re able to quickly say, ‘Yes, we can do that.’

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