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Synergies Between the VA and Commercial IDNs

Although the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is not an Integrated Delivery Network (IDN) in the traditional sense, it shares some similar goals as a commercial IDNs. In particular, reduction in healthcare fragmentation is eliminated through coordination between healthcare providers and a focus on improving the quality of patient care through the standardization of protocols, treatments, and guidelines. The interplay between the VA and commercial IDNs is an element that must be considered because collaboration and knowledge sharing, both formal and informal, is occurring.


How the commercial IDN market segment and the VA most obviously informally share knowledge is through medical student rotations. Medical students act as a bridge of sorts between the VA and commercial IDNs facilitating the exchange of knowledge based on the medical student’s experiences within each system. Some VA facilities even partner directly with IDNs to establish formal mentorship programs for medical students to enhance their knowledge of healthcare delivery within a commercial IDN context.


The VA also exchanges data with commercial IDNs through the VA’s collection of Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) programs including VA Exchange, VA Direct, and External Health Registries. These HIEs are intended to not only coordinate patient care but capture patient data within VA databases.


For example, Project STRONG is a collaboration between the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Kaiser Permanente, and the VA. Expected to conclude in 2025, the aim of this collaboration is to develop and test a new, integrated model for depression care whose findings will then be implemented throughout the VA health care system.


Commercial IDNs and the VA also establish formal research partnerships, which enhances collaboration between the two segments. Through these collaborative research efforts, commercial IDNs and the VA develop close working relationships and influence each other’s treatment approaches.


Whether in service to rounding out medical student education, striving for better data capture to coordinate patient care, or pursing new protocols through research, the VA is regularly and consistently interacting with commercial IDNs. The trust built between these institutions through the various points of connection leads to each formally and informally influencing each other up to the policy level within each system. Pharmaceutical manufacturers, therefore, must understand how the VA will interact with commercial IDNs for their specific product as well as how each market segment will ultimately influence the policies and procedures of the other when it comes to utilization. This type of overlay analysis best leverages a manufacturer’s commercial IDN strategy and Federal strategy to ensure efficient use of resources.

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