By: Adam Khan, MS3 & Timothy Aungst, PharmD

The rate of technology adoption by U.S. health care practitioners is pretty scattered. Healthcare systems in different states, counties, and cities tend to adopt technology at their own pace.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, though, is the model for a top-down approach to implementing change.

The VA healthcare systems includes more than 150 medical centers in the United States spread throughout the nation.

They are all administered under one central organization, so any change in this health care system will be felt by practitioners in every part of the country. The VA is leveraging this unique advantage and by leading the pack in experimenting with technology adoption.

As we reported earlier this year, the VA has been handing out iPhones and iPads to physicians and patients to streamline workload and facilitate patient communication. They are also experimenting with integrating mobile apps into their EMR. Earlier this month, the VA posed a solicitation on the federal business opportunities website, calling on vendors to help them expand the ability to view medical images, such as X-ray films and CT scans, on mobile devices.

The other major change the VA is flirting with is the design of their medical records. The vast majority of physicians in the United States have spent some time in the VA system, possibly on rotation either during residency or medical school.

Although the patient population and experiences are often memorable, the medical record-  called Blue Button – is not. The record is limited mostly to text and looks like a document saved in Microsoft Word.

Recognizing the chance to improve upon their already great system, the VA, in conjunction with some of the biggest names in mHealth, has issued a competition for developers to help re-design their medical record system, offering $50,000 in rewards. Entrants are asked to design different sections and make the medical record more usable for both the physician and workforce.

In the true spirit of widespread adoption, a combination of the winning designs will be built and open-sourced for developers everywhere to implement in their EMRs to integrate into their system.