When Donna Lynch first started her capstone project for a master’s degree in early 2020, she wanted to give back to VA, especially as the pandemic quickly crippled the U.S. health care system.
Lynch saw an opportunity to enhance VA’s rapidly expanding home telehealth services being offered to Veterans by making a Home Respiratory Monitoring (HRM) kit.
The 21-Day Home Telehealth program was already created to monitor symptoms of stable Veterans who test positive for COVID-19 and reduce the need for unnecessary admissions into VA hospitals. However, the HRM kits allow Veterans to self-monitor their oxygen levels with a pulse oximeter, the device used to estimate the oxygen saturation of the blood. Lower oxygen levels are a known indication of worsening conditions for COVID-19 patients.
“We know it is scary to find out you have COVID-19, so our kits not only help us monitor and reduce admissions, but it helps our Veterans feel safer as they navigate their condition,” said Lynch, who is a Case Manager in Nursing Specialty and Hospital-Based Services at VA Palo Alto health care.
She initially worked with a vendor to put together the kits that also include face masks, alcohol wipes, and educational handouts. Eventually, she worked with Supply Chain Services within the facility to create the kits on site, saving more than $20 in costs. The kits can be ordered on demand by the Veteran’s doctor once they are notified of the positive result, or can be handed out during Emergency Department visits.
For her project, Lynch calculated the costs of admission against the creation costs of the kit. Based on a 7-night stay average, using a $9,333.33 per night average, the kit is estimated to save $65,253.48 per person. From the few hundred kits already sent out, she estimated a savings of nearly $2 million for VA.
The kit also was named a local strong practice that is aligned with VA’s Commitment to Zero Harm on its Journey to High Reliability. She is now working with various VA facilities to implement the kits around the country.
VA is a strong advocate for employee-led innovations, providing support through programs like the VHA Innovators Network, and helping to advance the careers of its employees with education support programs. Lynch was able to take advantage of a scholarship from VA's National Education for Employees Program to complete her master’s degree in nursing management and organizational leadership in 2021.