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VA Releases Digital Healthcare Playbook to Improve Patient Care

The guide will help healthcare leaders navigate digital healthcare solutions to better patient care, streamline operational efficiencies, and lower costs, VA official stated.

The Veterans Affairs Department has released Phase One of its Digital Healthcare Playbook, which identifies available digital healthcare solutions that can help the US healthcare system transform patient care delivery.

Through this guide, created in collaboration with the Digital Medicine Society, the VA intends to drive digital transformation, encourage multi-sector/multidisciplinary collaboration, enable an inclusive research environment, and overall improve patient outcomes.

“This is all about trying to find the best strategy and … eliminate the blockers that exist for VA and private sector to collaborate on digital health,” Arash Harzand, the chief medical advisor for digital health at the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem, said in a statement to Nextgov.

Harzand explained that the playbook would serve as an industry guide to what the VA wants in new healthcare technology devices and an internal department analysis of the current software landscape.

VA said improving interoperability is a top priority for healthcare systems. Fundamentally, high-value digital healthcare needs high-quality data.

However, large-scale interoperability faces several barriers, such as physician dissatisfaction with EHRs, overregulation, isolated data silos, incompatible systems, and high cost.

The government must offer more substantial incentives for both providers and EHR vendors to encourage greater interoperability, VA wrote.

Alongside VA, healthcare entities have also recognized the need for greater interoperability for digital health.

Earlier this year, the National Academy of Medicine stated that continued interagency collaboration and public-private partnerships are needed to fully enable digital health.

“Interoperability standards need to extend beyond the current focus on EHRs,” the National Academy of Medicine writers stated. “Existing interoperability of healthcare data systems neither adequately supports optimal longitudinal care delivery nor advances the nation’s health needs.”

“The rapid pace of the pandemic’s spread emphasized the need for a rapid learning system that relies on capturing, organizing, sharing, and analyzing large amounts of data digitally across public health, research, and clinical systems,” the writers continued.

The VA’s Digital Healthcare Playbook also touched on EHRs.

“EHRs function as a system required in healthcare and less of a tool to aid in organization and communication of high-quality, patient centric care,” the report stated. “By design, they do not align with the cognitive and workflow requirements of clinicians or patients using the portals,”

Yet, EHRs do provide opportunities to create value for patients, providers, and the healthcare system, the report stated. The EHR has many stakeholders, including physicians, health system executives, regulators, and patients whose needs influence EHR capabilities.

Several critical areas within the patient and clinician experience can be improved by enhancing EHR functionality.

However, VA encouraged collaborative partnerships to better gauge clinicians’ EHR needs related to usability and efficiency.

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