Coming soon: Health innovation that matters

Steve Rushing, director of health@ei2, a healthcare innovation initiative at Georgia Tech, in front row, explains to his colleagues highlights some of the details that will play a role in the new collaboration between Georgia Tech and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Georgia Tech-VA team up to create test bed

ATLANTA  -  In order to make big strides in healthcare IT  -  and particularly within the new collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs and Georgia Tech  -  Steve Rushing advocates taking small, smart steps. 

"We're about starting small and smart, releasing early and often  -  do things, put it out there, get feedback, particularly from the marketplace, and adjust quickly," he says.

Rushing is director of Health@EI2, a healthcare innovation initiative at Georgia Tech.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) Innovation Sandbox Cloud and the Georgia Institute of Technology's Interoperability and Integration Innovation Lab announced on June 26 they would collaborate to address interoperability issues, accelerate the development of integrated health IT solutions, test new products and help train the IT workforce needed to move the industry forward. 

Lofty goals. Yet attainable, Rushing says, with the small-and-smart approach he promotes, and with critical changes that have come about in healthcare and healthcare technology over recent years. 

The agreement between Georgia Tech and VA also facilitates the use of the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), VHA's open source electronic health records system, to test new products and solutions. VistA already helps to manage care for 7.6 million active veterans across VHA's nationwide healthcare system and is often touted as the best electronic health records system in operation. 

"We believe that together we can do something really unique and important," Rushing says. "By connecting our interoperability innovation lab to the VHA's Sandbox Cloud, we can create joint project teams to work on specific challenges, work together to address industry issues and develop best practices, and test applications designed to run with the VA's robust electronic health records system." 

VHA and Georgia Tech share many of the same goals and, by working together, the organizations can leverage investments made by VA and other federal agencies, says Robert Kolodner, MD, who led development of VistA during his 28-year career at the VA. Kolodner, who is part of the team at Open Health Tools, a multinational nonprofit, serves as a strategic adviser to Georgia Tech on its healthcare IT initiatives. 

"This collaboration enables decades of health IT advances by VA to be combined with investments by other federal agencies and with resources from both the state and private sectors," Kolodner explains. "Together, they create a robust, diverse education and simulation environment. We can train the health IT workforce necessary to succeed as our national health IT initiatives improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities across the nation."