Michael Ho, MD, PhD and Makoto Jones, MD, MS, are recipients of the 2021 HSR&D Health System Impact Award. This award honors HSR&D- and QUERI-funded research that has had a direct and important impact on clinical practice or clinical policy within the VA health care system – and that has been successfully translated into VA’s policy or operations.
Michael Ho, MD, PhD
As part of HSR&D’s Denver/Seattle Center of Innovation for Veteran-Centered & Value-Driven Care and co-leader of the Quadruple Aim QUERI program, Dr. Ho earned the Impact Award because his research has had a direct and important impact on Veterans’ access to care. Dr. Ho leads the VA Collaborative Evaluation Center (VACE), whose evaluation efforts have led to key understandings in the areas of access and wait times. Under his leadership, VACE has provided the evidence base for the referral coordination initiative that is being implemented across all specialties nationally. In addition, he’s led teams of both quantitative and qualitative scientists that helped inform VA’s ongoing approach to implementing the MISSION Act. Quantitative approaches highlight the paucity of service availability via community care – and how Veterans in those areas are not receiving services intended by the Choice and MISSION Acts. The work also helped VA expand and reconsider the use of virtual care services during the pandemic. More importantly, the qualitative interviews of patients’ perceptions of access led to additional lines of inquiry, including how we measure Veterans’ access to care. In addition, Dr. Ho’s leadership of VACE enhanced partnerships with VA’s Office of Specialty Care Services (OCS), Office of Veterans Access to Care (OVAC), Office of Rural Health (ORH), and the Office of Connected Care (OCC), as well as many individual medical centers and VISNs, especially VISN 19 (Rocky Mountain Network) and VISN 20 (VA Northwest Health Network). Currently, Dr. Ho is leading three large multi-site pragmatic clinical trials testing multi-modal interventions that leverage technology to improve adherence, which are already leading to understanding how the integration of automated reminders can be tailored to individual patients and be practically adopted into routine care. In addition to his work as a researcher, Dr. Ho is a staff cardiologist at VA Eastern Colorado Health Care and is a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Makoto Jones, MD, MS
Part of HSR&D’s Center for Informatics, Decision Enhancement, and Analytic Sciences (IDEAS) and co-leader of the CARRAIGE QUERI program, Dr. Jones earned the Impact Award for what he has achieved regarding antimicrobial stewardship, infection control, and crucially, in biosurveillance. Dr. Jones began his research career in VA with an HSR&D Career Development Award (CDA) to identify cases of hospital-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections electronically. Subsequently, he was awarded a second CDA focusing on electronic assessment of antimicrobial use to promote the judicious use of antibiotics. In 2016, Dr. Jones was asked to lead the Biosurveillance, Antimicrobial Stewardship, and Infection Control (BASIC) operational program. Working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), he was able to incorporate BASIC dataflows into CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN), making VA its largest single contributor of antimicrobial use data. Dr. Jones collaborated with field-based infection control staff to develop BASIC Tools that allow them to readily obtain microbiology and laboratory results, create alerts, and easily track patients and patient panels. Dr. Jones also worked with the Department of Homeland Security to establish the VA biosurveillance infrastructure to rapidly alert and respond to biologic threats and outbreaks, which proved invaluable during the COVID-19 crisis. Dr. Jones and his team developed a system-based approach to understand and manage COVID-19 through artificial intelligence (AI) methods. In fact, the first known case of COVID-19 in Veterans was detected by his nascent system. Dr. Jones’s innovative approach was formally adopted as VA’s COVID-19 tracking system for internal case surveillance. This system was merged into the National Surveillance Tools (NST)—containing data about patients, hospital capacity, staffing, and inventory tracking—and is available to VA managers, clinicians, and Emergency Management Command Centers. NST also enables timely transmission of vital public health information to Health and Human Services, the CDC, Homeland Security, and other federal entities, as well as the public through the VA Access to Care website.
HSR&D is very grateful to Drs. Ho and Jones for their extremely valuable research, dedication, and continuing contributions toward improving the VA healthcare system and, most importantly, the care we provide for our Veterans.
HSR&D also greatly appreciates each of the Health System Impact Award Nominees, whose work helps VA improve the system and, thus, healthcare for our Veterans. The nominees are: