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Patient Data Access News

VA Pushes Patient-Centered Care, Patient Safety, Data Access

VA has unveiled grantees for patient safety projects as well as a new API to support the Blue Button initiative and patient data access.

va patient data access safety

By Sara Heath

- Two recent announcements out of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) highlight the agency’s push toward more patient-centered care, including improving patient safety and patient data access.

The most recent announcement pertains to the Department’s latest efforts to improve patient safety in their facilities.

Starting in 2019, ten Patient Safety Centers of Inquiry (PSCI) will receive VA funding to make innovations in patient safety. Although VA did not disclose the amount of funding allocated for the organizations, it did say the funds will span 2019 through 2021.

“The PSCI program is the pre-eminent patient safety innovation network in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA),” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Since 1999, the interventions implemented through the PSCI program have significantly contributed to our Veterans receiving the safest care anywhere.”

Previous PSCI initiatives have revolutionized patient safety throughout the VA and elsewhere. These improvements include the development of a patient fall prevention toolkit, patient sedation techniques for non-anesthesiologists, procedures for preventing hospital-acquired conditions (HACs), suicide prevention programs, and cancer care tracking systems.

Out of 36 program applicants, the VA selected the following organizations:

  • The VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System
  • James J. Peters VA Medical Center
  • Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
  • The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center
  • Iowa City VA Health Care Center
  • VA Greater Lost Angeles Healthcare System
  • VA Puget Sound Health Care System
  • James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital 
  • Doris Miller VA Medical Center 
  • White River Junction VA Medical Center

Projects include efforts to increase the appropriate use of catheters, reduce adverse medication effects in older adults and individuals with dementia, address patients at risk of adverse opioid events or opioid dependency, among other programs.

VA selected the grantees with the help of the VA National Center for Patient Safety, which employs the work of doctors, nurses, psychologists, pharmacists, and other patient safety experts.

The VA also announced improvements in its Blue Button initiative earlier this month. The agency unveiled its own healthcare application programming interface (API) that will allow patients to access their own health data through mobile technologies.

Specifically, patients will be able to access their own health data gleaned from certain mobile health apps using the Blue Button functionality. This will allow patients to aggregate all of their health data in one central place, so long as certain technologies leverage the VA API.

This announcement comes as a part of VA’s mission to improve veteran healthcare, said Secretary Wilkie.

“We are excited to announce this advancement in the way we deliver services,” Wilkie noted in a statement. “Healthcare data interoperability plays a key role in all four of VA’s top priorities, from implementing the MISSION Act and modernizing our electronic health record, to transforming our business systems and delivering better customer service. VA is proud to serve as a leader and example in this field.”

This API project was sponsored by the White House Office of American Innovation, which brought together thinkers on patient data management and senior health leaders from both the public and private sectors.

The API conforms to FHIR standards, which is a part of the agency’s overarching plans for developing more interoperable health systems, VA said. FHIR is the future of data sharing and interoperability, VA asserted, and more public and private sector entities must work to support the expansion of FHIR.

Blue Button has already been enormously successful in enabling patient data access at VA. Since the program’s launch in 2010, nearly 2 million veterans have access 32 million personal health files.

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