Although its chief architect is gone, a potentially innovative project to overhaul the health information technology system at the Veterans Affairs Department will likely live on with the Trump administration.
LaVerne Council was the main champion of the proposed Digital Health Platform project. She was assistant secretary for information and technology within the VA and chief information officer at its Office of Information and Technology, but she left office Jan. 20 with most other Obama administration “political appointees.”
“Basically where it stands now, the outgoing administration left a business case with some costs options,” on the DHP project, said VA spokesman Tim Cox. “The incoming administration will have to take that and weigh priorities.”
Cost estimates were unavailable at deadline.
And while DHP was Council's brainchild, the plan was put together at the request of Dr. David Shulkin, Cox said. Shulkin is the VA's undersecretary of health and President Donald Trump's nominee for VA secretary.
Council and Shulkin came to the VA as Obama appointees in the summer of 2015.
“They were partners from Day One since they were confirmed together,” Cox said, so, it's likely DHP still has a champion at the top.
A Senate confirmation hearing on Shulkin's nomination has not been scheduled.
Last April, during congressional hearings, Council first proposed bringing together a bundle of cloud-based technologies to improve the exchange of healthcare and benefits-related information within the VA.
The DHP also would serve as a conduit between the VHA—the VA's sprawling, 152-hospital, 990-clinic integrated delivery system—and private-sector healthcare providers who, in increasing numbers, are being called on to serve more than 8 million veterans.
Earlier this month, word surfaced that three software developers along with Georgia Tech put together a working proof of concept of Council's platform.
The developers were MuleSoft and Salesforce Health Cloud, both in San Francisco, and Apervita of Chicago. Salesforce brought to the DHP project its capabilities in cloud-based customer relationship management; MuleSoft, some application programming interfaces (APIs); and Apervita, data analytics.
The technologies have been integrated it into the business and clinical flows using the API gateways, said Steve Rushing, health IT strategic adviser at Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute. Georgia Tech oversaw the pilot under contract with the VA.
“Being able to make an appointment, get a care plan from the care coordinator—(they are) the kinds of things people discuss as being patient-centric,” Rushing said. “The EHR does clinical things very well," but customer relationship management could be better.
Rushing said they worked with Duke University and in that case, the VA sent clinical information with a referral for a female veteran because Duke was going to provide the OB-GYN care not available at the VA facility. The coordination was made easier by using an agile (software development) approach, he said.
“I'm very optimistic that it (the VA) will move to this platform,” Rushing said. “The economics are very important and it does cut the cost, and it reduces the time to get there.”