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DHA and Veterans Health Administration Collaborate to Innovate, Improve Patient Care

Image of DHA and Veterans Health Administration Collaborate to Innovate, Improve Patient Care. Defense Health Agency Director U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland talks about innovation and advanced technology at an innovation symposium with DHA and Veterans Health Administration leaders Sept. 18 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo: Robert Hammer/Military Health System)

Senior leaders from the Defense Health Agency and Veterans Health Administration came together to discuss the value of collaboration and innovation between the two agencies to improve the health care experience for their patients during an innovation symposium on Sept. 18, 2023, in Bethesda, Maryland.

DHA Director U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland said leveraging advanced technology brings value quickly and at scale.

“That's why we're here today,” she told the audience. “What we're really looking for are some quick wins that bring value to the Department of Defense and into our Military Health System at scale.”

She spoke about the importance of the DHA being agile, flexible, and willing to move quickly.

“If we're not agile and move at the speed of relevance, we will be unsuccessful,” said Crosland.

She also described the two agencies as “teammates” in their work to enhance health care delivery for patients.

“Figuring out how you navigate, that requires teammates,” Crosland said. “We've got some teammates doing some great stuff, we should look at what they're doing.”

Crosland was joined by Carolyn Clancy, the VHA’s assistant under secretary for health for discovery, education, and affiliate networks.

“Collaboration is key,” said Clancy. “We have to invest 100 percent in the people who invested 100 percent in us,” referring to the veteran beneficiaries.

Many in attendance agreed that innovation isn’t always about the technology or health care advancements—it’s about the people in your organization.

“Technology isn't always the answer,” Clancy said. “It can be an amazing accelerator and enabler, but sometimes I think we get a tiny bit distracted. It's often about the idea. It's all about what problem are you trying to solve.”

Clancy mentioned that both agencies have people that are trying to solve the same, or very similar problem, but in a different context, and that they will benefit by “having exposure to each other.”

She noted the importance of human capital and having those people in the right places.

She said that you must look at “who can be part of a broader extended team to help active duty service members, families and veterans that we serve.”

“We cannot do it without the innovators,” said Naomi Escoffery, deputy to the DHA’s deputy assistant director, acquisition and sustainment. “We have great people that do a lot of great things.”

Terry Dover, assistant program manager of product support with DOD Healthcare Management System Modernization office, said that for innovation to be of any use “we have to make it very seamless and to find a way to keep data safe and secure.”

Leaders agreed that bringing about innovation isn’t simple or even always wanted.

“We’re changing the culture in medicine,” said Crosland. “To do that, we’ve got to change the narrative.”

Along with the discussions between Crosland and Clancy, several other leaders from both organizations gave presentations outlining how they utilized cooperation to bring about innovation.

VHA Innovation Project Sharing

VHA researchers have recently worked with DHA on behavioral research projects focusing on suicide among veterans.

  • Dr. Joseph Geraci, director, Transitioning Servicemember/Veteran and Suicide Prevention Center and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Chris Paine, DHA Central Texas Market Lead, Behavioral Health Fort Cavazos, presented their behavioral health project looking at guns and suicide attempts.
  • Dr. Amanda Lienau, director of data analytics innovation, Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning at the VA discussed the VA’s Mission Daybreak Project, a 10-year strategy to end veteran suicide through a comprehensive, public health approach. 
  • Dr. Anne Lord Bailey, director, clinical tech innovation and VA immersive lead, Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning, talked about the variety of virtual reality projects at the VA.

DHA Innovation Project Sharing

DHA staff have recently been focused on projects relating to the DHA-wide focus to make the agency “digital-first.”

  • Dover talked about the ‘Virtual First – Digital Front Door’ project at the DHA.
  • Escoffery discussed her presentation titled “DHA’s Innovation Ecosystem.”

As the event concluded, leaders from DHA and VHA agreed that innovation requires collaboration and aligning the human capital from each agency is necessary to drive performance and outcomes.

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Last Updated: October 23, 2023
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