The Department of Veterans Affairs today announced that it is establishing a new VA Center for Innovation, or VACI, that will build on the three-year track record of the VA Innovation Initiative, known as VAi2.
VACI launches with a portfolio of more than 120 projects seeded by VAi2 and that represent some of the higher profile innovations in the federal government in recent years, including the Blue Button personal electronic health record, the open source community around electronic health records with OSHERA, and the business incubator for Veteran startups called VETransfer.
Wednesday’s announcement includes thirteen new innovations in such areas as teleaudiology, prosthetic socket redesign Blue Button, and automating the sterilization process for reusable medical instruments.
In addition to the name change, VACI expands on the work of VAi2 with a new innovation fellows program, entrepreneur-in-residence program, and a partnerships program all intended to “lower the barrier of entry for innovations,” according to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.
“We’ve been at this for three years,” said center director Jonah Czerwinski. “Year one was focused on building the foundational components of an innovation program for the largest civilian agency in government. Year two we focused on growing and managing the projects we undertook and invested in. Year three is all about adoption, seeing the mature innovation transition to everyday use.”
Dr. Peter Levin, VA’s chief technology officer, serves on the VACI oversight board. “VACI found new ways of tapping into private sector innovation and employee ideas that benefit the Veterans we serve and setting the conditions for a culture that embraces problem solving and new ways of thinking,” Levin said.
The department also issued a detailed “Stakeholder Report” today to explain the story behind the unique innovation program. The report includes a listing of all innovations under the VACI purview. Additionally, the first VACI Senior Fellows, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, and Partnerships are identified on the new website, located at www.innovation.va.gov.
The VA describes the newly announced innovations in a statement:
- RemotEAR, by Otovation of King of Prussia, PA, to improve the availability of audiology services for Veterans by providing a solution for assessing all audiology services through rehabilitation;
- Technical Feasibility of Smartphone Based Teleaudiology, by Phonak of Warrenville, IL, to enable remote programming of hearing aids through a smartphone;
- Remote Audiometry in VA CBOCs, by Audiology, Inc., of Arden Hills, MN, to develop an automated audiometer that can be used by audiology support personnel in VA facilities without an audiology clinic;
- Cochlear Implant Programming, by Cochlear Americas of Centennial, CO, for the remote programming of cochlear implants. The concept has been useful for other implant technologies but will be innovative for cochlear implants;
- Quasi-Passive Prosthetic Socket Technology, by Massachusetts Institute of Technology of Cambridge, MA, to improve socket fit by means of a permanent socket that allows for adjustments to stiffness and reduction of movement within the socket using continuous electronic sensors and laminate technology;
- Pro-Active Dynamic Accommodating Prosthetic Socket, by Infoscitex of Waltham, MA, to create a prosthetic socket that conforms to volume changes over the course of a day, as well as those caused by the gait cycle, with a system of sensors that automatically detect changes in pressure and allows the bladders to rapidly change in response to movement;
- SOCAT: Socket Optimized for Comfort with Advanced Technology, by Florida State University of Tallahassee, FL, to develop a new prosthetic socket that better manages changes in volume and pressure while providing active cooling and temperature control;
- Synergetic Improvements for Transfemoral Prosthetic Sockets, by the Ohio Willow Wood Company of Mt. Sterling, OH, to create an improved transfemoral suspension and socket system made from polymer materials that draw heat away from the limb for enhanced performance and comfort;
- Comprehensive National Kidney Disease Registry, by University of Michigan of Ann Arbor, MI, to create a national database of VA patients suffering from kidney disease, enabling individual and longitudinal tracking of patients and outcomes;
- VA Mobile Blue Button, by Agilex Technologies of Chantilly, Virginia, to allow patients to view and share their VA health data using their mobile devices. In addition, the application will enable secure messaging between VA providers and Veterans via mobile devices to meet their needs;
- Blue Button Authentication Field Test Proposal, by Northrop Grumman of McLean, Virginia, to enable Veterans to authenticate online for greater flexibility in accessing their medical records and VA services;
- Blue Button Extensions Medical Imaging, by Ray Group International of Washington, DC, to give Veterans the ability to view and download their own medical images (such as X-rays, MRIs, and scanned medical records) via Blue Button for personal storage and to directly transmit them to their non-VA physicians;
- Automated Integrated Perioperative Process, by GE Global Research of Niskayuna, NY, to help VA develop a fully automated process for sterilizing reusable medical instruments in order to prevent potentially life-threatening diseases for Veterans.