Veterans Health Administration creates new office to streamline tech initiatives

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The Veterans Health Administration has combined a number of its existing programs into one office to serve as the agency’s “central coordinator of digital health strategy and execution.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Health Administration has moved a number of its technology-focused components under the authority of a new Digital Health Office, or DHO, according to VA officials. 

A VA spokesperson told Nextgov/FCW that DHO was launched on June 2 and was created as part of a VHA Central Office optimization effort that first began in April 2023. They added that the new component “brings together VHA’s offices of connected care, population health and health informatics — as well as its strategic initiatives lab and artificial intelligence programs and personnel.”

The DHO is funded by the offices and programs that were combined to create it and brings together 600 personnel from a variety of VHA initiatives. 

“DHO’s overarching focus is to realize VHA’s vision by serving as VHA’s central coordinator of digital health strategy and execution,” the spokesperson said. “DHO will enhance partnerships between VA programs and VA facilities to develop digital innovations and provide the infrastructure and support needed to spread those innovations across the enterprise.”

Latriece Prince-Wheeler, VHA’s acting deputy chief digital health officer, first announced the launch of the Digital Health Office during a health innovation summit on June 6, noting that officials are still “in the nascent phases of bringing this office together.”

“We really saw the opportunity to optimize our digital health resources by bringing them together with a coordinated strategy,” Prince-Wheeler said, adding that “there's really no one in VA that owns that clinician experience, and so we believe that the digital health office will own that clinician experience.”

VHA is still working to recruit permanent leadership for the new office, but Nadia Smith is now overseeing its work as VHA’s acting chief digital health officer. Prince-Wheeler is the office’s acting deputy.

“VA needs to embrace new innovations in digital health technologies to efficiently and effectively deliver the world-class care that our veterans deserve,” the spokesperson said. “This office allows us to bring together the multiple efforts within VA that are advancing these capabilities and to align our resources and priorities to maximize the impact of new technologies on the healthcare experiences of our veterans.”