Accelerating Implementation of Virtual Care in an Integrated Health Care System: Future Research and Operations Priorities

J Gen Intern Med. 2021 Aug;36(8):2434-2442. doi: 10.1007/s11606-020-06517-3. Epub 2021 Jan 26.


Background: Virtual care is critical to Veterans Health Administration (VHA) efforts to expand veterans' access to care. Health care policies such as the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability (CHOICE) Act and the Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act impact how the VHA provides care. Research on ways to refine virtual care delivery models to meet the needs of veterans, clinicians, and VHA stakeholders is needed.

Objective: Given the importance of virtual approaches for increasing access to high-quality VHA care, in December 2019, we convened a Think Tank, Accelerating Implementation of Virtual Care in VHA Practice, to consider challenges to virtual care research and practice across the VHA, discuss novel approaches to using and evaluating virtual care, assess perspectives on virtual care, and develop priorities to enhance virtual care in the VHA.

Methods: We used a participatory approach to develop potential priorities for virtual care research and activities at the VHA. We refined these priorities through force-ranked prioritization and group discussion, and developed solutions for selected priorities.

Results: Think Tank attendees (n = 18) consisted of VHA stakeholders, including operations partners (e.g., Office of Rural Health, Office of Nursing Services, Health Services Research and Development), clinicians (e.g., physicians, nurses, psychologists, physician assistants), and health services researchers. We identified an initial list of fifteen potential priorities and narrowed these down to four. The four priorities were (1) scaling evidence-based practices, (2) centralizing virtual care, (3) creating high-value care within the VHA with virtual care, and (4) identifying appropriate patients for virtual care.

Conclusion: Our Think Tank took an important step in setting a partnered research agenda to optimize the use of virtual care within the VHA. We brought together research and operations stakeholders and identified possibilities, partnerships, and potential solutions for virtual care.

Keywords: delivery of health care; health services research; implementation science; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans Health
  • Veterans*