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 Kathryn Beckner, Innovation Program Coordinator at the Central Virginia VA Health Care System (CVHCS).
For many innovators, the path into the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) involves the integration of their innovative program or practice into one of VHA IE’s portfolios. For Kathryn Beckner, it was a bit different. Beckner now leads the charge on innovation as the innovation program coordinator, also known as an Innovation Specialist at CVHCS; however, it wasn’t an innovative project that got her there, but rather growth in the community of innovators that is spreading across VA.
“I applied for Spark Seed Spread in 2019 to address a frontline problem I encountered on a regular basis as an occupational therapist,” said Beckner, “and although I wasn’t selected for an investment, the participation in those innovation events led to the opportunity for me to move into my current role.”
In that role, Beckner has helped lead the way for innovation not just at CVHCS, but across VA through her work as an Innovation Specialist for the VHA IE Innovators Network (iNET). Beckner works on a variety of innovative practices and projects, using the surprising flexibility built into iNET to improve VHA and health care for Veterans. Two of these projects are partnerships set up through the iNET Greenhouse Initiative (Greenhouse) in which Beckner is helping to bring outside innovation to VA.
One innovation is the Portable Parallel Bars (PPB). Beckner and a team of VA clinicians from Richmond, Cleveland and Asheville collaborated with the PPB team to provide clinical design input on the parallel bars which were created to provide portable rehabilitation equipment for Veterans in a variety of settings. CVHCS will be the pilot site for the beta prototype of the parallel bars. Clinicians from numerous settings will provide feedback on the prototype to ensure it best meets the needs of VHA clinicians and Veterans.
Beckner is also supporting a collaboration with Healing Innovations through the Greenhouse. CVHCS and other iNET sites across the country have worked together to discover what clinicians see, want and need from the robotic gait training technology being developed by Healing Innovations. This technology has the potential to impact Veterans receiving physical rehabilitation for a myriad of diagnoses. The Healing Innovations team is committed to incorporating VA’s feedback in the future design of their technology to meet the needs of VA providers, and most importantly, meet the needs of Veterans.
“VA is unlike any other health care system. We have the opportunity to include the voice of the Veteran and VHA in the future of health care. I love working with people, and in this role, I get to work with everyone – Veterans, clinicians, VA employees and external partners,” said Beckner.
Allison Amrhein is the director of operations for the VHA Innovators Network and communications lead for the VHA Innovation Ecosystem.