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VANJHCS Celebrates First Cohort of Innovation Projects on the National Stage

Two Veterans participate in a recent innovation focus group at VANJHCS that was made possible by the VHA Innovators Network

VA New Jersey Healthcare System welcomed its inaugural cohort of VHA Innovators Network Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment and Accelerator Program Investees this week.

Spark-Seed-Spread identifies and accelerates employee-inspired innovations that improve health experiences for Veterans, families, caregivers, and employees. The program invests in both employees themselves and their innovative solutions through the VHA Innovators Network (iNET) Accelerator Program, which is the immersive learning and professional development component that comes along with the Spark-Seed-Spread investment. This year five teams were chosen as “investees” and will work with VA New Jersey Healthcare System’s Innovation Specialist to advance their ideas through prototyping. 

“This year’s Spark-Seed-Spread cohort will be the biggest ever! We had nearly double the applicants from last year and it was really tough competition with such quality applications,” said Allison Amrhein, iNET Director. “The VANJHCS team did an outstanding job identifying and pushing very competitive projects forward in their first year in the VHA Innovators Network.” 

VANJHCS joined iNET in 2022 and has been building capacity in the run-up to Spark-Seed-Spread since last October. Preparing a Healthcare System for a formal innovation program is no small task. “We have been working tirelessly to introduce as many employees as we can to new trainings and opportunities, like Human-Centered Design, Storytelling, and basic Lean principles,” said Dave Brimmer, Innovation Specialist at VANJHCS. “I’ve been really inspired by the number of people who want to pitch their ideas to me. It really shows just how much compassion and ingenuity people here have for our Vets.” 

Five projects from VANJHCS were selected to be cohorted with others from around the country in the 2024 Spark-Seed-Spread cycle.  These projects include:  

  • A novel way to encourage discharged mental health patients to stay connected with what they learned in treatment, and to educate their families 

  • A reimagining of how certain information is communicated to veterans, between VA providers, and between VA and community hospitals 

  • A multidisciplinary class that educates veterans about programs and tools that can help them manage specific conditions by choosing the path that best fits their individual health goals 

  • A novel way to add phonetic pronunciation of names to employee, and possibly other, digital presence indicators 

  • An approach to suicide prevention that includes certified peer support and strengthened community connections 

VANJHCS Innovation Specialist Dave Brimmer indicates that this is only the beginning for innovative work at VA’s New Jersey Healthcare System. “These ideas are at various states of practicality right now and may look vastly different if implemented. We cannot know if the final versions will work without exposing them to core user experience constructs like insisting on the use of empathetic design practices, including the voice of the Veteran, using iterative prototyping, and staying laser-focused on the problem-at-hand are what builds resilient innovations.” 

Follow these links if you want to learn more about the VHA Innovators Network, the Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment and Accelerator Program, or innovation at VANJHCS



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