Face of InnoVAtion is a regular series from the VHA Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) focusing on VA employees who are working to change and save Veteran lives through innovation. This month, meet Jeffrey Heckman, DO, Ph.D., medical director at the Seattle VA Amputation System of Care.
There is a lot to Veteran health care that Veterans do not see when they come into a VA Medical Center. For instance, when a Veteran requires a prosthetic, a complex system is triggered for processes to go into effect, often taking weeks for a Veteran to receive the prosthetic they need. It’s not flashy or readily noticeable, but making these systems work better for Veterans is key to making Veteran care better. That is what Dr. Jeffrey Heckman understood when he and his team at VA Puget Sound Health Care System (HCS) developed FLOW3.
Dr. Heckman began his path toward becoming a health care innovator as a physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) physician at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone Health. Eventually, his career led him to teaching, and after inviting a VA physician to lecture at one of his classes, he was introduced to the VA Amputation System of Care, a program dedicated to quality initiatives and process improvement. In 2012, he joined VA at the VA Puget Sound HCS, where he participated in an employee engagement pilot to identify opportunities to improve prosthetic limb care for Veterans. This resulted in him developing the FLOW3 program and eventually spreading it nationwide through the VHA IE Diffusion of Excellence.
FLOW3 has streamlined the entire process for requesting, making and delivering prosthetics. While it resides behind the scenes where a Veteran may never see, they benefit from the result: a more than a 50% reduction in the time it takes to get a Veteran the prosthetic they need. This program speaks to Dr. Heckman’s drive to partner with the many diverse stakeholders involved in prosthetic placement. Through the process of expanding FLOW3, he discovered that innovation was occurring on every level of VA, diffused throughout the entire enterprise.
“My favorite thing about working at VA is the shared mission,” said Dr. Heckman. “There is never a question why we show up to work every day. The innovation space at VA has a storied history and is supported locally, regionally and nationally. Many of my VA colleagues ask about my experience with innovation in order to improve their own projects to provide the highest quality of care for the Veterans they serve.”