Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment Program

The Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment Program (Spark-Seed-Spread Program) empowers VHA employees and provides a platform that allows them to design and test Veteran-centric solutions to top VHA priorities in a space free from the operational day-to-day restrictions—an innovative space to "start small, fail small." Via VHA Innovators Network (iNET) and the Spark-Seed-Spread Program, the ability to fail or experiment is a valued part of innovation; learning and rapidly pivoting is a way to find a solution that works.

The Spark-Seed-Spread Program seeks innovative concepts, programs, products, and solutions from VHA employees. Through the Spark-Seed-Spread Program, iNET offers innovation and lean start-up training, the VHA Innovation Accelerator Program, project management support, and opportunities to connect with other like-minded entrepreneurial VHA employees.

Spark-Seed-Spread Program Details

The goal of the Spark-Seed-Spread Program is to identify and accelerate employee-inspired innovations to improve health care experiences for Veterans, families, caregivers, and employees. The Spark-Seed-Spread Program’s three levels of investment are based on the maturity of the employee’s innovative solution:

  • Spark: Projects in the ideation stage. Supports the development of an initial prototype.
  • Seed: Projects in early-stage development. Supports the implementation of a pilot to verify feasibility of the initial prototype.
  • Spread: Projects in the feasibility confirmation stage. Supports the implementation of multi-site pilots to support the solution's value and feasibility while taking into account different variables.

Spark-Seed-Spread Program opportunities are only available to iNET sites at this time. We are constantly looking for new ways to engage all VHA employees, but at this time you must be located at one of the 33 iNET sites to participate.

Spark-Seed-Spread Innovations

These are just some examples of Veteran-centered innovations developed as a part of the VHA Innovators Network:

  • VEText: VEText Open Slot Management (OSM) is a system that queries the electronic medical record for unused appointments and offers earlier appointments to patients by text message. Veterans can respond to the message to accept the earlier appointment, and VEText will cancel the original appointment and schedule the earlier appointment. Nearly 6 million Veterans receive health care scheduling reminders via VEText. More than 70 million text messages were sent in 2019.
  • Intermediate Care Technician Expansion: Intermediate Care Technicians (ICTs) are former military medics and corpsmen that have a more advanced scope of practice than a traditional VA ED Health Technician due to their military education, experience, and service. Utilizing their clinical skills, patient navigation, and care coordination, ICTs works as force multipliers, increasing access to care, enhancing nursing and medicine productivity, and increasing patient satisfaction. This service model, which is currently being used in 36 VA medical centers, helps facilities better visualize the opportunity and potential of incorporating ICTs into clinical care teams and other areas within its medical centers.
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Veterans: Jessica Homan, the LGBTQ Veteran Care Coordinator and LGBTQ VISN 10 Lead at the Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center in Columbus, Ohio, used the Spark-Seed-Spread Program to establish a community of practice focused on caring for LGBTQ Veterans. "We feel this has really helped employees understand more about the LGBTQ Veteran experience and gain more compassion for this population," Homan said.
  • Prediabetes Dashboard-Central Iowa: The Prediabetes Identification Tool identifies patients at the patient-aligned care team level who are likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, so education and preventive measures can be taken to prevent disease progression. This tool has tripled interventions of prediabetic patients each month since implementation at the originating site and is currently being used at eight VA medical centers.
  • Automatic Email Notification System (AENS): AENS is a push system for consult management that allows users to access their priority consult data through an automated email system that delivers a link directly to data specific to each user. The system is set up by a clinical stop code so only users responsible for that code receive an email notification and only when consults fall outside the national timeframes. AENS is currently used at 54 VA medical centers throughout the country.

The Investee Accelerator Program

VHA employees who are selected for investments enter the Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Accelerator Bootcamp (Accelerator). The Accelerator supports early-stage ideas through education, mentorship, and financing. It runs for a fixed-period of time and is a process of intense, rapid, and immersive education aimed at accelerating the life cycle of young, innovative ideas, compressing years of learning into a few months.