“Innovation Revolutionary” is a recurring series from the VHA Innovation Ecosystem, focusing on VA employees who are disrupting the status-quo, breaking down barriers, and attempting to radically revolutionize Veteran care and the employee experience.
Accurate blood pressure monitoring is incredibly important when it comes to health, and many Veterans are asked to self-monitor at home. Accurate readings can help determine if someone needs to see their provider, go to the emergency room or receive medical services. Capturing this vital sign often comes with many challenges for disabled Veterans.
Nurse Kimberly Jones serves Veterans who struggle to capture their own blood pressure with a standard blood pressure cuff. These Veterans may be stroke victims, amputees, have hand tremors or other physical limitations that make this task difficult.
Jones, who has been working in VA telehealth for 14 years, was working with a Veteran who needed blood pressure monitoring at home. With only one arm, he could not effectively use their device. The telehealth team was unable to find an existing solution to solve this problem.
What does a VA employee do when faced with a unique challenge and no solution? Create one. Jones tapped into the VHA Innovators Network (iNET) Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment Program to design and develop her own solution. She realized she needed someone with specialized skills to turn her vision into reality.
That’s where Bob Smith comes in. Smith, an Air Force Veteran, works in VA’s home-based Primary Care and Occupational Therapy. He has a passion for innovation, and when Jones reached out for help, he was eager to contribute and they got to work.
Building a prototype
Supported by the Spark-Seed-Spread Program, they were provided with both funding and innovation-specific training to create a physical prototype. Smith designed a blood pressure cuff device that allows Veterans to take their blood pressure with only one arm. This was a game changer for Veterans who do not have home assistance.
Jones, who thought the idea would be passed along to someone else, was surprised when they maintained ownership over the process. “INET empowered me to be a leader in the process,” he said. “They provided financing, education, legal support and a team with the same passion as us.”
The updated prototype is currently waiting for manufacturing with medical-grade materials so it can be tested with Veterans. While the device was originally designed for Veterans, Jones and Smith both know it will also impact non-Veterans who need accurate at-home blood pressure monitoring.
While Jones and Smith always knew VA was a leader in innovation, this process allowed them to experience innovation first-hand. “It’s enlightening to see how much VA does to help those who have borne the battle,” he said. “It instills hope that things can move forward at VA. Sometimes things feel stuck, but if something has enough warmth, light and water, it can grow.”
Jones wants to encourage others in the VA community. “If you see something like this, speak up and reach out. Keep that passion of the idea alive. It doesn’t matter what part of the Innovation Ecosystem you’re a part of, there are so many ways to get your ideas out there,” he said.
Want to get started on your Innovation Journey?
Want to support VHA IE’s innovation revolution? Visit our website at https://www.va.gov/innovationecosystem/ to learn about opportunities to become involved in innovation at VA.