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Using patient-centered education to support our nation’s Veterans

Posted by Tim Hittmeier on September 3, 2020

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and GetWellNetwork started their partnership with the goal of thinking differently about patient engagement through an innovative care delivery model called Interactive Patient Care (IPC). IPC creates both qualitative and quantitative outcomes in quality and safety metrics as well as patient experience.  

In total, 47 Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs) have now partnered with GetWellNetwork and have had as much success implementing IPC as any healthcare system in the country. 

Much of that success is attributed to each individual VAMC’s commitment to thinking about GetWellNetwork as a core strategic partner for increasing patient engagement (and, therefore, outcomes), and not just a project or initiative.  

Interactive Patient Care, as a core strategy to meet Veterans Health Administration (VHA) goals, has provided many benefits to the VHA and the Veterans it serves. 

These include:

  • Placing the Veteran at the center of their care, with tools that proactively engage them and their families. 
  • Providing ready access to skill-building resources to enable a healthy life balance.
  • Enabling communication and intervention to sustain patient engagement.
  • Personalizing the experience according to Veteran preferences, needs and goals.
  • Enhancing the healthcare team experience with resources and tools that improve patient care access, coordination and continuity of care.
  • Enabling Veteran feedback on health status, satisfaction and perception of quality to create transparency.
  • Standardizing and optimizing Whole Health delivery by pushing Whole Health content from the Office of Patient Centered Care (OPCC), as well as optimizing Whole Health processes such as goal-oriented recovery and lifestyle changes and direct access to ancillary services and therapies.  
  • Supporting High Reliability Organization (HRO) principles, including utilizing IPC tools to improve care coordination, increase safety, engage Veterans and their families around health decisions and eliminate inefficiencies by providing digital tools to support clinical tasks and education delivery.

The end result of the VA’s dedication — from the front-line staff to the VAMC leadership team — has been incredible utilization of IPC tools by the Veterans themselves. For example, in 2019:

  • Veterans completed over 44,000 hours of education videos, equaling $2.2M in added nurse productivity.
  • VAMCs received over 604,000 Veteran comments (in real time) about their care, providing caregivers with the opportunity to implement service recovery processes that could solve care perception issues quickly and efficiently.  
  • Veterans viewed more than 112,000 medication information sheets, helping to standardize the medication education process. 
  • Veterans viewed over 3.8 million websites and 380M web pages, helping them stay connected.
  • Veterans watched nearly 400,000 movies, providing necessary distraction therapy.   

Outcomes derive from utilization and process. The following are just a few of the patient experience and clinical outcomes that VAMCs have seen in 2020 by leveraging GetWellNetwork to implement IPC.

Lowering infection rates through education

The first comes out of a Southern VAMC that had a priority to reduce MRSA infection rates.  One thing we’ve learned about Veterans in our nine-year partnership with the VA is that they are not afraid to speak up! 

In this case, the VAMC used automated prompts encouraging Veterans to tell anyone coming into their room to use the soap dispenser, as well as orientation video education on how to keep themselves safe in the hospital. This empowered Veterans to take responsibility for their own care and safety. 

Essentially, the more completed infection prevention videos there were, the lower the MRSA infection rate at this VAMC. These incredible results are a tribute to both this VAMC’s commitment to safety and the Veterans actively engaging as a part of their care team. 

Medication teaching

The next example comes from another Southern VAMC. This VA prioritized medication teaching, utilizing a GetWellNetwork medication interface to automatically send education about medications to the Veteran as the medications are prescribed. 

This gave Veterans real-time access to their active inpatient medications, which they were then able to review with clinicians during routine rounding. The result? As utilization of the med sheets increased, so did the patient experience composite scores around Medication Education.  

The bottom line

Personally, I’ve been working with the VA for nine years to help implement IPC as a core strategy for performance improvement. In that time, I’ve found that both the caregivers and Veterans have engaged with the technology at the highest level made possible by GetWellNetwork’s integration with VISTA. 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to get the outcomes that our VA partners have achieved. Uniting the people, process and technology to fully realize the potential of IPC is an ongoing process and one that I look forward to continuing as we move to a cross-continuum digital health platform.