Since 2018, VHA’s Diffusion of Excellence Initiative (DOEI)—part of the VHA Innovation Ecosystem—has been sponsoring an annual Shark Tank competition, which focuses on identifying field-developed practices that promote positive outcomes and improved experiences for Veterans and employees. The program facilitates the standardization of those practices across the VA healthcare system, fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Any VA employee can submit a practice for consideration, and after two rounds of evaluation by VA subject matter experts, 16 finalists emerge. Finalists pitch their practices during a live roundtable, with “sharks” (directors from VA Medical Centers and VISNs) bidding to support the implementation of the chosen practice at their site.
The 2021 VHA Shark Tank Competition winners were announced on April 2, 2022, and two HSR&D-funded investigators were among the 10 new Diffusion of Excellence Promising Practices.
Fall Prevention System (FPS). In 2015, the cost of fatal and non-fatal falls in the US was approximately $50 billion—and since falls disproportionally impact older adults, it is a particularly important issue for VA. The FPS team, including investigator Thomas Osborne, MD, part of HSR&D’s Center for Innovation to Implementation and Director of VA’s National Center for Collaborative Healthcare Innovation (NCCHI), has been developing innovative ways to prevent falls. The NCCHI is collaborating with a medical company on a project that utilizes a smart integrated sock sensor system to alert nurses when a fall-risk patient attempts to get out of bed. This practice will be implemented in VISN 2 at the VA Medical Center in Bath, NY, and in VISN 4 at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.
Implementation of Syringe Services Programs (SSP) within the VA. Using non-sterile syringes can result in transmission of viral hepatitis, HIV, and other conditions, including injection site infections. The Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) seeks to reduce transmission of these diseases as well as reduce overall harm for Veterans. The program provides: sterile injection and non-injection equipment and supplies; naloxone distribution and education; screening/treatment for viral hepatitis, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections; vaccinations; and fentanyl test strips; among other services. HSR&D investigators contributing to the program include program lead Elizabeth A. Dinges, PharmD, affiliate investigator with the Center of Innovation for Complex Chronic Healthcare; Elizabeth Oliva, PhD, with HSR&D’s Center for Innovation to Implementation; and Justeen Hyde, PhD and Westyn Branch-Elliman, MD, MS, both with HSR&D’s Center for Healthcare Organization & Implementation Research. This practice will be implemented in VISN 1 at the VA Boston Healthcare System.
The Shark Tank competition for 2022 is now underway and will be accepting applications through May 6. The competition is open to any VA employee. Submissions should be field-developed innovations that promote positive outcomes and improved experiences for Veterans and employees. A complete FAQ, along with deadlines, applications, and links to two applicant information sessions are available on the Shark Tank section of VA’s Diffusion Marketplace website.