The VA's new initiatives along with their current ongoing programs has contributed to turning the VA into a 21st century organization that is people-centric, results driven, and forward looking. VA programs and activities have increased in rural healthcare, telehealth, upgrading the benefits system, providing for more transparency, and developing a new competition to find solutions to problems.
In the area of rural health, the VA continues their Rural Mobile Health Care Clinics pilot program. In addition, the VA supports studies and analyses on a wide range of healthcare issues relevant to rural and highly rural veterans. Specifically, studies on how to implement telehealth, how to address the unique needs of the Native American population, and how to treat the many older veterans in the VA system are ongoing.
In total, the VA telehealth program has expanded by 30 percent in providing home telehealth services. The program provides care to Veterans with chronic medical and mental health conditions, and today, the program enables 46,000 veteran patients to receive care and live independently in their own homes and local communities.
To help in the area of health IT and to increase efficiency in delivering healthcare, the Department of Defense and the VA are in the process of establishing a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) to provide seamless and efficient access to the information needed to provide services and benefits.
The goal is for DOD and the VA to exchange information between their different systems and their points of service in the private sector. To move the project faster from concept to implementation, the VLER initiative has been divided into two major lines of business such as health and benefits.
The implementation of this system will eventually allow for a standards-based information exchange between the health information systems of the two departments and the private sector. A series of pilots are underway to produce a scalable approach that will deliver the initial capabilities required by the end of calendar year 2012 with the implementation to be expanded to a mature state by the end of calendar year 2014.
The VA’s benefits information system is also undergoing an incremental implementation approach. Today, the current VA and DOD benefits information-sharing mechanisms are being evaluated and will be developed to provide basic administrative information in a seamless format between the departments by the end of calendar year 2012 and by 2014. At that time, access will be established to retrieve all of the necessary administrative information between the departments as well as relevant and accessible information in the private sector.
The VA was directed to develop a specific and actionable plan to be more transparent, participatory, and collaborative to meet the needs of the Administration. Some of the changes include the submission of 30 data sets to Data.gov, the collaborative development and soft launch of the “Blue Button enabling veterans to download their personal health records, and the imminent delivery of the Fast Track system for automated claims process of presumptively service-connected disabilities.
A new program, the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) was launched in 2010 to identify, prioritize, fund, test, and deploy the most promising solutions to VA’s most important challenges. The program invites employees, private sector companies, entrepreneurs, and academic leaders to contribute their best ideas for innovations. Innovations are needed to increase the veterans’ access to services, improve the quality of services delivered, and/or enhance the performance of VA operations. In 2011, VAi2 will continue to provide oversight to more than 50 projects initiated in 2010 to ensure their implementation
The VA also recently established the Technology Acquisition Center (TAC) in Monmouth, New Jersey. The TAC is a strategic department asset providing acquisition support for the VA’s Office of Information Technology. During 2010, TAC awarded over $478 million in contracts and developing an effective procurement strategy to support VA’s major initiatives.