The Department of Veterans Affairs is incorporating mobile technology and devices into their operations, demonstrating that they are up  to date on technology.

The VA is distributing a controlled number (1,000 max) of iPhones and iPads to hospitals that represent a business case of need, such as the D.C. VA medical center.

The devices are being used by VA doctors to securely and remotely access a patient’s electronic health record (EHR).

The mobile app, which has been developed by clinicians at the Washington D.C. VA medical centre, enables a physician to have information about the patients to be seen that day and helps with their rounds.

The iMedicalApps team has previously reported on efforts by the VA to incorporate mobile technology into their hospitals. In fact, in that report, we noted that the VA is acquiring 100,000 tablets for their medical personnel to utilize. VA’s acquisition strategy included a nationwide mobile device management (MDM) solution to make it easier to manage and securely connect tablets and smart phones to the agency’s enterprise network. It is curious that the VA is now deciding to deploy an app to access EHR records from an iPhone. Furthermore, it is not clear why they have decided to develop their own app rather than use other off the shelf examples.

Roger Baker, VA CIO explains,”The EHR app is really powerful. It is reported to be a significant time saver, and I would use the phrase morale improver, but primarily it makes it clear that we’re using the latest technology at the VA again and not just older technology.”

The new app will utilize the VA’s enhanced Wi-Fi capabilities. Currently, this enhanced Wi-Fi is in a third of the VA campuses, with the remainder set to be completed in the next two or three years. Roger Baker believes the Wi-Fi is crucial to the functionality of certain features in the app.

“Wi-Fi will be used as the backbone for VA’s real-time location system (RTLS) to track equipment and even patients and augment it in in certain cases where more specific location is required.”

The challenge is to get the devices to pinpoint data as accurately as possible. Right now, Wi-Fi is fine at locating things  up to a point, but it is not as precise as VA requires.

For example, Wi-Fi is accurate up to a certain point when specifically identifying where a device is.

“A surgeon wants to know that everything that is needed to perform surgery is in the room before starting. A different technology to do that kind of RTLS than Wi-Fi is needed ‘because Wi-Fi sees through the walls and can’t tell you whether it’s room A or B. So we’ll augment the WiFi, which will be our general signal, and do the backbone of our work with some fine-grained capabilities that will help us on the medical side.'”

Future rollouts of this technology will go out nationwide when the demand and implementation of the enhanced Wi-Fi occur. VA also anticipates that the app will be further deployed when a once a more robust mobile device manager (MDM) is in place than the current one being used. The more robust MDM will be able to manage and secure up to 100,000 mobile devices across the department as they are acquired.

Over time, VA will add other mobile platforms like Android. We will keep you posted on further updates to this rollout.

Source: Government HealthIT