Caring for Veterans in the Internet Age

GetWellNetwork’s patient-centered model is transforming the way that veterans access and experience their care through patient empowerment

For more than twenty years, redesigning patient care has been David Wright’s work and passion. In the early years of his career, when the concept of patient-centered care was new and progressive, Wright was among the pioneering US healthcare leaders to push for transforming how healthcare is delivered.

However, Wright was frustrated with how the transformation was taking shape. “All of the efforts to redesign the way care is delivered for better patient experience and outcomes was about what we do to and for the patient rather than with the patient,” he says. Patient care had become about the task of care delivery rather than about engaging and activating the patient to take more responsibility for their care and health management.

That sense that something was missing changed when Wright joined the team at GetWellNetwork, a company that was also aiming to transform healthcare delivery through its Interactive Patient Care model. Thirteen years later, GetWellNetwork’s technology platform streamlines the healthcare process and empowers patients to participate in managing their health through individualized care.

In July 2016, Wright transitioned to the role of senior VP of government services, where he oversees GetWellNetwork’s partnership with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense. Wright is passionate about providing excellent care to veterans and active-duty military personnel, and he has the expertise to make a significant impact. “I have always believed that leadership and the way I approach my work should be a combination of head and heart,” Wright says. “This expanded role gave me a real opportunity to return something back to those who have served us—using both.”

GetWellNetwork’s work with the VA began with the VA’s Office of Patient Centered Care’s belief in and support of the concept of interactive patient care delivery. Today, VA medical centers across the nation are leveraging the interactive care model and GetWellNetwork technology solutions to improve access to care; to advance quality, safety, and service performance; and, most importantly, to enhance the veteran experience.

A core component of the interactive patient care model is using interventional pathways—the use of education and care-management tools that engage patients in their treatment. These pathways create a closed loop that streamlines the process and empowers veterans to take charge of their care and to partner with their healthcare team to manage their health.

For example, a nurse might prescribe specific education lessons based on the veteran’s needs and condition through VISTA/CPRS, the Veterans Health Administration’s EHR system. The system then sends a prompt to patients’ TVs or tablets that alerts them to education lessons. After patients complete a comprehension assessment video, evidence of their completion is automatically documented into their medical records. Providers can then use patients’ feedback to advance or adapt their personal health plan. “The concept of interactive patient care is based on the goal of engaging the patient in their care by empowering them with information and resources, which gives them control on how they progress through their treatment,” Wright says. “Very simply, it is really about providing care with the patient, not to the patient.”

Interventions can also proactively support avoiding common but preventable issues, such as falling. The Falls Prevention pathway assesses veterans’ risk of falling, educates them on how to prevent it, and sends reminder prompts throughout their hospital stay. Similarly, nurse and physicians may prescribe a personal health plan based on veterans’ diagnoses. When prescribed a personal health plan, veterans are guided through a multi-phase process that better prepares them to care for themselves going forward.

“Experience demonstrates that active engagement of the veteran in their care process has resulted in much higher satisfaction rates, improved safety performance, lower lengths of stay, and lower cost of care for veterans overall,” Wright says. In 2016, VA medical centers are reporting double-digit-percentage advances in quality, safety, and veteran satisfaction scores.

Along with empowering patients, these pathways create more efficient workflows that enable nurses to have more time—which they might otherwise spend completing administrative tasks—at veterans’ bedsides engaging in personal health planning and comfort care.

GetWellNetwork is currently working with the VA’s Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation to design and implement the next phase of interactive patient care. “GetWellNetwork tools and resources are being configured and used to support the VA’s move to whole healthcare,” Wright says.

The goal of whole health is to collaboratively establish a personalized health plan for every veteran that is rooted in and built upon veterans’ life goals. In the whole health model, healthcare providers take into account patients’ physical and medical needs along with their emotional and spiritual values to develop a personalized health plan that patients are empowered to carry out. Rather than focusing on patients’ problems, the whole health approach concentrates on their values and ambitions—meeting their grandchildren, for example, or maintaining physical strength. The healthcare team then combines this information with patients’ clinical data to create a tailored health plan. From there, the healthcare team can direct patients to resources that are available through the VA or in the community that will support them in achieving their goals.

The whole healthcare concept is based on the belief that designing and following a personalized health plan that helps veterans achieve what they value will motivate them to better manage and take more responsibility for their health. “We are taking the concept of interactive patient care and marrying that with the concept and goal of whole health to establish a transformative and, we believe, prototypical approach to the most effective patient-centered approach to healthcare,” Wright explains.

GetWellNetwork’s solutions are transforming the way that care is being delivered to and accessed by veterans in clinics, hospitals, and at home. Through the interactive patient care model, veterans are empowered to take part in managing their health, and families are more involved in caring for their loved ones. Working with veterans has changed Wright, too.

“There is a purpose and a specialness to what I do every day that doesn’t feel like work,” he says. “It is very important to me to know that I have some small role in enhancing the lives of those people who have sacrificed so much.”