Improving Veterans’ Care through Digital Health Technology

Every year, as the nation observes Veterans Day on November 11, we stand in gratitude for the sacrifices made by our military heroes. But this observance should not be a one-time event — in fact, it’s crucial to honor and support our nation’s Veterans, not just on Veterans Day, but year round, and that includes making efforts to improve Veterans’ care. 

Here at Get Well, we do so by helping center Veterans in their own care, providing the resources that they need and facilitating seamless healthcare transitions. This is not a new endeavor; in September 2011, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs moved into the patient engagement space, awarding its first IPC contract to Get Well (formally known as GetWellNetwork at the time). This marked the first time that the VA used IPC technology to help engage, educate, and empower Veterans in their own care. 

In the decade since, Get Well has supported Veterans and their families by providing ready access to patient education, facilitating service recovery, and much more. Here are three examples of how we’ve used digital health technology to improve care delivery for our nation’s heroes over just this past year. 

Increasing Veteran satisfaction with care transitions

The Care Transition composite area of the Survey of Healthcare Experience of Patients (SHEP) measures patients’ perception of care provided when transitioning them out of the hospital setting. Understanding these perceptions is critical since they represent how the patient feels about their care and by extension how they feel about their ability to succeed with their care after their inpatient stay.

In an effort to address the need for increasing Veteran satisfaction with their care transition education, one VA health system in the southeast turned to Get Well for help. They had consistently faced hurdles in the past with the Care Transition composite area of SHEP.

The health system recognized it needed to refocus to obtain the outcomes they wanted to see in the SHEP surveys. Specifically, the team zeroed in on improving service recovery efforts with the staff by monitoring Get Well data monthly and reporting this data out in monthly PCS committees.

Within GetWell Inpatient, they narrowed their focus to only reflect the Care Transitional questions. The health system’s Quality Improvement Council and Care Transition Work group were both instrumental in the progress of this project.

To determine success, multiple areas of SHEP were measured, including:

  • Care Transition
  • Discharge Information
  • Medication Teaching
  • Shared Decision Making

By utilizing the survey overview report and survey detail report in the Get Well platform,  this health system was able to evaluate performance monthly and make adjustments as needed. 

The results spoke for themselves. After refocusing on Care Transitional questions, the system saw a decrease in the amount of neutral and negative responses from FY21Q1-Q2, correlating to an increase in SHEP score. They were also able to use Get Well’s Medication Teaching pathway to help educate Veterans on their inpatient medications — a win for patient education. 

This system credits its success on this project to having leadership support from the ELT level, establishing accountability in a Nurse Executive Council in which all PCS Chiefs attend, and a Quality Improvement Council leading the charge in cultural adoption. 

These factors, combined with the digital health technology presented by Get Well, result in more satisfied Veterans and better transitions of care.

Improving Veterans’ care outcomes in Community Living Centers (CLCs)

Falls can lead to hospitalization and often to a long, painful recovery for a Veteran, and transfers are one of the higher risk situations for falls in a care facility. 

One Midwest VA Community Living Center (CLC) collaborated with Get Well to devise and implement an innovative solution to this problem that used the GetWell Whiteboard. To improve communication and decrease fall risk, therapy staff enter a Veteran’s transfer and ambulation details into the system, which nursing staff can easily access from the Veteran’s television prior to performing the transfer. This process saves time for already busy staff and increases safety for the patient.

In another instance, residents in a VA CLC were restricted to their rooms with limited movement to other areas and limited social interactions with others because of the COVID-19 lockdown. These restrictions had a significant impact on quality of life for residents.

To address the quality of life issues, the Get Well platform was updated with a variety of new features and experiences. In addition, existing features were evaluated for inclusiveness and self-entertainment value, and communication tools were assessed to ensure adequate interaction opportunities.

These changes meant Veterans had access to standard entertainment options and sleep time aids, service requests, library services, and spirituality modules, as needed. The ready access to information and services helped to maintain socialization and promote emotional well-being during periods of restricted movement from assigned rooms. 

Veteran suicide prevention

Veteran suicide prevention is an important issue and high priority for VA health systems around the country. And now it’s a priority for Congress, as well. 

As part of a community-based grant program, Congress has recently authorized $174 million to be awarded to organizations that provide or coordinate suicide prevention services for Veterans and their families across the country. 

Digital care management technology, like GetWell Loop, has a large role to play in this area. The tool uses a library of procedural and condition-based care plans that patients access on their smartphone devices. 

Future care plans could potentially help educate Veterans, reinforce self-monitoring for concerning signs and symptoms, provide instant access to de-escalation resources, and allow identification of those most at-risk and in need of follow up and intervention.

This potential work stands in addition to the robust efforts that are already underway at various VA health systems. One VA health system in the Midatlantic region was already well established with the GetWell Inpatient platform, meant to engage Veterans in their rooms in Acute and CLC settings. 

After the facility lost a patient to suicide, the Veteran Health Education Coordinator on staff prioritized surfacing suicide prevention information or the crisis hotline on the home screen of the Get Well platform and distinguishing it with a colored background. 

While the change may seem simple, the results were immediate: before implementation, only seven of the inpatient Veterans accessed the suicide prevention information in April. After the update, 91 Veterans viewed the information during May, 74 Veterans in June, and 100 Veterans in July.

The bottom line

Transforming Veteran care delivery is a duty we take seriously here at Get Well. In working with some of the best hospitals and health systems in the country, we strive to help increase patient satisfaction, boost communication, and improve the lives of Veterans every day in ways both big and small.

Even with all of the positive outcomes in 2021, there are additional, exciting efforts on the horizon. Above all, these efforts are worth it because of who they serve. And this Veterans Day, and every day, we’re honored to be working in service of our nation’s heroes.