As the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) activates its “fourth mission” duties to provide lifesaving aid during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Chief Data Officer Kshemendra Paul said at a May 27 Federal Data Strategy Conference that scaling telemedicine has been a “huge success story” of the agency’s capabilities.

Paul said the VA has long been a pioneer in telemedicine and tele-intensive care units (tele-ICUs), and been able to remain on the forefront of the “explosion in telemedicine” during the pandemic by quickly scaling up.

“It’s got demands that it’s placed on VA and some of those demands are on our IT partners,” he admitted, but said that VA IT offices were able to “scale up the bandwidth to do this securely, the infrastructure, the firewalls.” Through these advances, VA is now able to connect local medical professionals with specialists in rural or underserved areas that would otherwise not have access to such expertise, Paul said.

Going forward, Paul said that suicide prevention as a use case for the impact of data policy is a priority for him, and the agency at large. VA has already identified data sharing, information sharing process, analytic tradecraft, and collaboration barriers to its suicide prevention initiatives that its working across offices to solve, he said.

“While we hope this is going to accelerate suicide prevention activities, my specific interest is suicide prevention as a core use case to help us understand where we need to take our data policy as we manage information along its lifecycle,” he explained.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.