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Department of Veterans Affairs

VA partners with the Digital Medicine Society (DiMe) to advance digital innovation

On the heels of a collaboration with Google-owned Fitbit, America’s largest healthcare system and DiMe aim to “operationalize” digital innovation

Boston, MA – March 15, 2021 — The Digital Medicine Society (DiMe), the professional society for digital health, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are partnering to develop a consistent approach to successfully deploying digital-health technologies at scale.

The VA oversees the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) which, with more than 300,000 employees across 1,200 facilities, is America’s largest integrated healthcare system.

While blazing new trails might seem tough for an organization of its size, in 2021 the VHA has been making major moves in digital-health: just a few weeks after joining with Fitbit to provide 10,000 veterans with free memberships, the organization is further expanding its efforts with the new collaboration with DiMe, which organizers say will “operationalize the innovation” of digital technologies for veterans.

Digital technologies have obviously become essential tools for healthcare services during the pandemic. But studies have shown that Veterans older than 45, as well as those in rural areas, are much less likely to use services like telehealth. If doctors cannot check up with patients via video visits, their illnesses and pre-existing conditions can fester and worsen. This is especially dangerous during recent winter spikes in cases: in fact, one-quarter of all COVID-19 deaths among veterans happened just in the past month.

The effort is being led by the VHA’s Innovation Ecosystem in conjunction with DiMe, which works closely with collaborators at organizations like the NIH and FDA to help advance the safe, effective, ethical, and equitable use of digital technologies in healthcare.

Imagine, for example, if information about a veteran’s prescriptions, chronic conditions and mental-health records could be paired with FitBit’s day-to-day data on things like sleep patterns, heart rate and blood-oxygen levels.

“If you have a veteran who’s been sleeping poorly and whose breathing rate has increased, having all that data at your fingertips could help trigger targeted outreach to establish whether there is a specific medical issue at play,” says Jennifer Goldsack, executive director of DiMe. “By securely connecting digital data streams with information in the veteran’s medical record, the hope is to be able to provide a more cohesive and holistic form of healthcare – and one that’s available to all regardless of health status, place, or demographics.”

The VHA Innovation Ecosystem is committed to accelerating healthcare’s slow pace of digital transformation by addressing the lack of a standard model for operationalizing and scaling innovation.

“Our goal is to provide interdisciplinary expertise and insights to the VA as they continue to foster an environment that’s conducive to innovation,” said Smit Patel, director of digital medicine. “Together, we expect to improve care for millions of veterans while developing a model for operating and scaling innovation across the country.”

The VA will get input from DiMe as they pursue specific digital implementation and quality improvement initiatives to inform the development of a robust conceptual framework for evaluating prospective digital health solutions, focusing on identifying those solutions that can be effective at scale and that promote health equity.

The next step for this collaboration is to review veteran feedback about their healthcare pain points and priorities, using those insights to build the innovation infrastructure needed to place veterans at the center of their care.

“It’s an honor for DiMe to work with the VA to keep pace with the evolving healthcare needs of veterans,” says Goldsack. “We are committed to improving the lives of veterans and look forward to sharing lessons learned to other U.S. healthcare systems.”

About the Digital Medicine Society

The Digital Medicine Society (DiMe) is the professional organization for experts from all disciplines comprising the diverse field of digital medicine. Together, we drive scientific progress and broad acceptance of digital medicine to enhance public health. From regulators to white-hat hackers, ethicists to engineers, and clinicians to citizen scientists, we are a communityat the intersection of the global healthcare and technology communities dedicated to advancing digital medicine to optimize human health.

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