LEAF: VA Innovation Supports Natural Disaster Efforts to Deliver Care Faster

With the recent natural disasters affecting the United States, VA provided in-person and virtual care for thousands of Veterans and their family members. Given the logistical hurdles involved in coordinating disaster relief in a timely manner, VA relies on cutting-edge technologies to organize these efforts.

A VA innovation project, Light Electronic Action Framework (more commonly known as LEAF) has been key to VA’s efforts this hurricane season. LEAF is a VA-developed web application that helps VA facilities rapidly digitize existing processes, getting better services to veterans faster. While its main function is to digitally streamline day-to-day processes, such as travel and tuition reimbursement, LEAF has also served as an essential tool for VA when natural disasters strike.

LEAF’s data capabilities enables the management of large data sets and facilitate information workflows between VA administrators and telehealth providers, enabling them to give medical attention to those affected by natural disasters faster and more efficiently on a large scale.

Over the past few months, more than 300 VA clinicians have used LEAF to identify more than 6,000 hours of clinic slots, from 18 different clinical specialties, that assisted with disaster response.

LEAF and Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

LEAF was recently instrumental in coordinating disaster relief for VA in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Both hurricanes wreaked havoc and destruction over communities in Texas and Florida, creating the need for rapid deployment of relief efforts, especially medical attention.

The LEAF team established an ad hoc website within 24 hours that enabled telehealth providers to volunteer their time during specified blocks of time and deliver high-quality care to those affected by the two hurricanes.

“The changes could be made so quickly in response to our evolving needs allowed us to organize our providers of all specialties more efficiently and translate that into an effective patient care schedule,” said Dr. Leonie Hayworth, VA’s acting National Telehealth Advisor for Primary Care.

VA has the nation’s largest amount of health care providers with a talent pool of more than 130,000 clinicians. For this reason, it is important that its administrative and organizational processes run smoothly when a natural disaster strikes. Thus, LEAF will continue to be instrumental in coordinating disaster relief support in the future.

“Without LEAF’s infrastructure, we would not have been able to leverage the entire VA workforce to assist in a disaster without disrupting day to day operations,” said Matt Rogers, Clinical Operations Director of the Virtual Integrated Multisite Patient Aligned Care Team (V-IMPACT).

In addition to the critical support LEAF provides during disaster relief, it has also had enormous day-to-day benefits for VA. For example, in North Carolina, the Salisbury VA Medical Center greatly accelerated their hiring process using LEAF. Specifically, the amount of time from the initial hiring request to the final decision was reduced by 54 percent and driven by LEAF’s ability to track hiring data, thus helping VA staff identify and resolve hold-ups in the process.

Snapshot of LEAF’s Disaster Relief Dashboard

Recently, there has been expansive growth in the LEAF community through the introduction of LEAF coaches and the virtual LEAF Academy. VA recently launched the LEAF library earlier this year to help promote standardization.

To learn more about LEAF, visit the LEAF Pulse page (VA employees) or access LEAF on the VA Innovations GitHub account.