Five Steps Toward Digital Transformation at the Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is keenly focused on improving the healthcare and general services that support our military veterans. Incumbent on these improvements is the integration of leading edge technologies that digitize and automate processes for efficiency along with important security enhancements.

 

 

ONE: Implementation of Electronic Health Records

The Department's efforts to modernize the way they store and access records for the nine million veterans they care for into a comprehensive electronic system has been well documented. These efforts involve upgrading all 1200+ VA facilities' existing systems to ensure better continuity of care, and are currently focused on moving EHR data to a cloud system that will be interoperable with the Military Health System. The ultimate goal is to ensure service members can seamlessly and digitally transition from DOD to VA health care, instead of needing to carry around stacks of paper forms as is current practice.

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Supporting Veterans In Their Second Act

Each year approximately 200,000 servicemembers transition to the civilian world. For many, this means finding a new career path and unfortunately, this search can prove to be incredibly difficult. The unemployment rate among veterans tends to be higher than the general population. Two major challenges drive this statistic: First is the complexity of translating military work experience into civilian terms. Second is the difficulty for many active-duty military to complete traditional education, certification, and licensing programs in a timely manner. Continue reading

As Doors Open…Citizens Still Want to Meet Online

As we emerge from the isolation of the pandemic and begin interacting in person again, it will be in a world that looks and feels a lot different. While we crave human interaction, that does not mean we want to go back to standing in lines at office buildings to complete certain tasks. Over the past year, people have gotten used to doing things virtually. Government agencies have made incredible progress moving traditionally manual, paper-intensive, in-person processes online, and there's no reason that should stop now that in-person is an option.

Additionally, the ability to get information online will continue to be an expectation of citizens. During the pandemic, local, state, and federal agencies quickly got data out to citizens regarding COVID cases, restrictions, and later vaccinations to help inform and shape behavior. In fact, Ohio had a jump on many states. They had launched Ohio Checkbook well before the pandemic to provide anyone a look at real-time state budgeting, financial and transactional data. Using that as a starting point, they quickly launched their COVID portal. Post-pandemic, all government agencies need to look at how the COVID data systems can be used to get other critical information and communication to the public about transportation, human services, workforce and more.

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Putting Work into Defining the Government Workforce

The last year has brought about incredible change in the federal workforce, and it shows no sign of stopping. With a new Director for the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) confirmed, the next several months will bring new energy and activity to formalizing and standardizing workplace policies, processes, and approaches for the "new normal" of a digital-first government.

The move to telework changed how many people view and even perform their jobs. Before the pandemic, telework was sporadically used throughout government and viewed pretty skeptically. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, it's clear that government can continue to function without people in office buildings from 9am-5pm. As in-person work starts to come back around, the new shift will be in defining and managing a hybrid workforce.

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The Telework Genie is Free. Now What?

In regards to remote working, the general consensus seems to be, "you can't put the genie back in the bottle."

A good portion of the government workforce has been working from home for the past year, and the world has continued turning. In fact, some agencies report productivity is up since teleworking became the norm. While people will return to the office, it will look different with many alternating office days with days they work from home. The past year has shown us that working arrangements do not necessarily need to be confined to an office. And, when we also remove the stress of students learning from home, caring for homebound elderly parents, and a pandemic in general, employees may realize a new level of balance and job satisfaction.

To support the continued success of remote work, agencies need to shore up the IT that was put in place to simply keep the trains running on time. Some technology was implemented quickly to meet the immediate need, and now is the time to take a hard look at all of those solutions to see if they will scale to meet the long-term reality of a dispersed workforce.

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