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What VA’s winners of health IT innovation competition says about the industry and MU

Posted Jun 07 2010 6:40am

About a week ago Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the selection of 26 winning ideas in the Veterans Health Administration / Office of Information and Technology (VHA/OIT) Innovation Competition . Here’s the list from the website:

  • Reducing health care associated infections using informatics
  • CPRS-based automated queries & reports
  • Robust VA forms search engine
  • Augment CPRS with standards-based decision support engine
  • Enhanced care management to facilitate case management and chronic disease care
  • Integration of behavioral health lab & CPRS for mental health primary care
  • Edischarge pilot program
  • Show patient picture in CPRS
  • CPRS enhancement for veteran-centered care
  • “Parking” outpatient prescriptions to prevent waste
  • Suicide hotline: be a hero, save a hero
  • Touch screen device support for nursing triage of patients
  • Tools for front line veteran eligibility staffing
  • VA-wide core collection of knowledge based information resources
  • Integrate VistA surgery package with CPRS
  • Illustrated medication instructions for veterans
  • Share verified insurance info via use of the master patient index
  • Veteran online tracking of mail prescription delivery
  • Search function in CPRS
  • Accessible contact information for all assigned care providers
  • Online radiology protocoling tool integrated within CPRS/VistA
  • Wireless voice communications with hands free options
  • Improved access to military personnel records
  • Brief resident supervision index
  • Emergency medical response team communication
  • Reduce unnecessary/duplicate lab tests by rules-based algorithms

All of these ideas have merit and I think the VA’s been innovative about how they’ve gathered the ideas. Most if not all would be applicable to even non-VA systems so it’s a good idea to publish them.

If we take a closer at the winning entries it seems that many of them reference items that are also listed as requirements for Meaningful Use (MU). Take, for example, searching, integration, insurance verification, protocols, and enhanced communication. My question is that if it’s taken decades for the VA’s systems to be built (not to mention billions of dollars) and that some of the winners show that VistA (the VA’s EMR) doesn’t have some of these features that are required in MU how can we assume that hospitals with much less time and money can make it all happen quickly?

Am I reading too much into the winners list — meaning that the winners aren’t really filling some similar MU gaps but that they are all really innovations that couldn’t have come out years ago as natural extensions of VistA? Of course VA doesn’t need to worry about MU at all and I’m not saying they should but I’m wondering out loud whether the winners list says anything about how hard meeting MU goals is going to be in the next few years.

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