Earlier this month, Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin, MD, announced a new effort aimed at improving access to care for Veterans through new and enhanced telehealth initiatives.

According to this recent FCW article, the VA currently reaches about 700,000 veterans with hospital-faced telehealth visits. This new plan is to expand VA services into patient homes and the offices of private medical practices of doctors around the U.S.

Launched at an event with President Trump at the White House on August 3rd, the new VA Connect app is designed to support the expansion of VA’s already-extensive telehealth services, and is in use in 250 VA facilities. A larger nationwide rollout is expected to happen in October 2017.

“We’re expanding the ability of veterans to connect with their VA healthcare team from anywhere using mobile application on the veteran’s own phone or the veteran’s own computer,” said President Donald Trump at the White House event. “This will significantly expand access to care for our veterans, especially for those who need help in the area of mental health, which is a bigger and bigger request – and also in suicide prevention.”

As highlighted in this Wired Magazine article, the new app will offer Veterans access to doctors from more than 50 specialties, from dermatology to dentistry, with a special focus on providing mental health services, particularly in rural areas.

While there will be challenges in managing the back-log of medical appointments, as well as app adoption by older Veterans, this new effort shows that the VA is taking a fresh approach to using innovation to expand access to care.

This is why we are naming VA Secretary Shulkin as this week’s GovTransformer. Stay tuned for our ongoing coverage of other federal executives and their agencies that are truly transforming how they support mission goals through the most effective use of IT.