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Telehealth, Blue Button boost VA to “Most Wired” list

By Jennifer Bresnick

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has joined the ranks of the nation’s “Most Wired” hospitals for the first time this year, scooping a spot on the Hospitals & Health Networks’ honor roll due to its telehealth, mHealth, and patient engagement efforts.   The “Most Wired” list, produced in collaboration with EHR vendor McKesson, the American Hospital Association, and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), ranks hospitals that have used health IT to provide innovative services to improve patient care.

“The Department is honored to be on the ‘Most Wired’ list this year,” VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel said. “VA is dedicated to providing veteran patients with the best experience possible. Integrating HIT into our everyday processes has helped us to accomplish that goal and will continue to be a key part of our strategy moving forward.”  Petzel will accept the award on behalf of the VA during an AHA conference in late July.

The VA recently released a series of iPad and iOS apps for veterans suffering from PTSD and other mental illnesses, as well as a smoking cessation app to promote healthier lifestyle choices.  The Department also recently announced a mobile health pilot program that allows seriously wounded veterans and their caregivers to access a suite of tools through the iPad to track and access health records.

The popular Blue Button initiative, adopted by an increasing number of healthcare organizations nationwide, is also a notable feature of the VA’s HIT strategy.  In conjunction with Blue Button, the My HealtheVet program allows patients to securely message their providers, access their records online, and make appointments in a timelier manner.

The “Most Wired” list actively seeks providers who integrate HIT into the organization’s infrastructure, business and administration management, clinical quality and safety, and the patient care continuum, all of which are areas of focus for the VA while it revamps its clinical and administrative health IT systems.  The hospitals are ranked based on their responses to a survey that polled nearly 30% of hospitals across the country.

“As the nation’s largest health network, VA is always looking for ways to serve Veterans in the best, most efficient way possible — from hiring the best professionals to ensuring that VA is using the most effective technologies in its health care services,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, acting deputy director of the DoD/VA Interagency Program Office. “We are constantly working to improve our practices and enhance our understanding of which technologies work best for our network.”

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