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Office of Research & Development

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VA Research in Action

All VA research is intended to ultimately contribute to the health and well-being of Veterans. On this page, you will find examples of how VA research has been translated into everyday health care within the Veterans Health Administration or in medical care generally.

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Decade of Seminal Work 
Posting Date 

VACO Index for calculating COVID-19 risk
VA researchers developed a scoring system that uses health and demographic data to accurately predict a patient’s risk of death from COVID-19. The VACO Index has been validated as a useful tool to assess who is at the greatest risk of death from the virus.

2020s COVID-19, Infectious Diseases 20210315

3D-printed prosthetic feet for different types of shoes
VA prosthetists developed a method to allow women Veterans with lower-limb amputations to wear whatever type of shoes they want, including heels, whenever they want to. The method uses 3D printing to make custom prosthetics.

2020s Prosthetics, Women's Health 20211007

Pre-surgery frailty assessment
VA researchers created a clinical tool to screen frail elderly patients before they have surgery. The tool significantly lowered mortality rates after surgery. VA began using this screen nationwide in 2021.

2020s Health Care Delivery 20211007

AMPREDICT Decision Support Tool for Veterans with limb loss
In 2021, VA researchers unveiled a decision support tool, called AMPREDICT, that allows doctors and patients throughout the world to work together to determine the best level of amputation for those with chronic limb threatening ischemia.

2020s Diabetes 20220127

JAK inhibitors for treating viral infections
VA researchers found that medications called JAK inhibitors, often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, are useful at treating viral infections such as HIV. They may also be an option for treating the virus that causes COVID-19.

2020s COVID-19, Arthritis, Infectious diseases 20220301

VA research being used to help children with heart defects
A team at Vanderbilt University Medical Center has harnessed MVP research to predict how well infants will respond to congenital heart defect surgery, in one of the first examples of MVP data being used for health research beyond MVP.

2020s Informatics, Cardiovascular disease 20220531

Study guides treatment of high blood pressure in diabetic nephropathy
In 2013, VA researchers published the results of a study called NEPHRON-D, which indicated that taking two forms of blood pressure medication at the same time was harmful. Its results have guided clinicians throughout the world in determining proper courses of treatment for diabetic nephropathy.

2010s Kidney disease 20220301

Measurement-Based Mental Health Care
Dr. David Oslin developed specialized software to record and track patient outcomes in a standardized manner. Today, some 75% of VA facilities use Oslin’s Behavioral Health Laboratory software to track Veterans’ mental health care.

2010s Mental health, Health care delivery 20220127

Antibiotic Stewardship
VA researchers have been in the forefront of the Department’s antibiotic stewardship efforts, helping to combat antibiotic overuse and slow the spread of antibiotic resistance.

2010s Infectious diseases 20220127

Vein Harvesting Techniques for Heart Bypass Surgery
VA researchers found that a form of vein removal used in heart bypass surgery, called endoscopic vein harvesting, is as safe as open vein harvesting when it’s performed by surgeons who are expert in vein removal. Their work has influenced current clinical guidelines concerning bypass procedures.

2010s Cardiovascular disease 20211228

Race-free approach to estimating kidney function
VA researchers studied a way to detect kidney disease they believed could be much more accurate than the current test. As a result, the National Kidney Foundation and American Society of Nephrology urged health care systems throughout the nation to change their method.

2010s Kidney Disease 20211007

Collaborative care for mental health
After a study involving nine VA medical centers proved the effectiveness of a collaborative care model in mental health care, VA is rolling out the program nationwide.

2010s Mental health 20190703

Ending harassment of women Veterans in VA facilities
Studies by the VA Women’s Health Research Network have shown that women Veterans are often subject to harassment at VA facilities. To address the issue, VA in 2017 launched a national campaign to end harassment at VA medical centers. Researchers are tracking progress and developing new evidence-based strategies to end gender-based harassment.

2010s Women’s health 20190703

Data-sharing agreement to limit unsafe opioid prescribing
Spurred by research showing that Veterans who receive prescriptions for pain from more than one health care system were more likely to die from an opioid overdose, in 2019 VA entered into a landmark data-sharing agreement with Medicare. The agreement gives VA the ability to monitor medical prescriptions issued outside VA through Medicare Part D, which will improve care coordination and opioid safety for Veterans.

2010s Pain, substance use disorder 20190801

PTSD Coach app
In 2011, clinicians at VA’s National Center for PTSD, drawing on research and evidence-based practice from in and outside VA, developed PTSD Coach, a self-management mobile app. As of mid-2019, PTSD Coach has been downloaded more than 425,000 times in over 100 countries and shown encouraging results in several studies.

2010s Posttraumatic stress disorder 20190801

Assessment tool for military TBI
VA researchers developed an assessment tool to diagnose and evaluate traumatic brain injury in Veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Boston Assessment of Traumatic Brain Injury-Lifetime has become a gold standard for assessing mild TBI specific to Veterans. It is in use at many VA medical centers and War Related Illness and Injury Study Center sites across the country.

2010s Traumatic brain injury, TBI 20191202

Combatting MRSA infection in VA community living centers
Results from a VA study helped to refine what precautions against the “super bug” MRSA need to be taken in VA community living centers. The findings were included in VA infection-control preventive guidelines and informed guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for community-based nursing homes nationwide.

2010s Infectious diseases 20191202

Eye-tracking device for early Parkinson's detection
Researchers with VA and Virginia Commonwealth University have developed an eye motion test that could help detect and diagnose Parkinson’s disease at an early stage. The device is now licensed to a private company for commercial development.

2010s Parkinson's disease 20200124

M-PACE upper-limb exercise device
VA researchers invented an exercise device that can be used while lying in bed. By peddling with their arms, patients can still get exercise using the device even when they cannot stand, which can help prevent a number of health problems related to lack of activity.

2010s Spinal cord injury 20200520

A skin monitor for hard-to-view body locations
Researchers at the Minneapolis VA have developed a device called Habit Camera that helps people monitor their skin in parts of the body that are difficult to see, such as their backsides and the bottoms of their feet.

2010s Cancer, Diabetes, Spinal cord injuries 20200901

Replacement fingers for men and women
VA researchers developed 3D-printed prosthetics for people who have lost all or part of a finger. The devices allow users to perform a wide variety of daily living tasks.

2010s Prosthetics 20200903

A standing wheelchair that also moves
VA researchers developed a wheelchair that users can move while in a standing position. The standing position allows users to interact with other people and objects at eye level.

2010s Prosthetics, Spinal cord injury 20200911

Opioid overdose education and naloxone distribution
In 2014 and 2015, researchers evaluated the feasibility of VA’s distributing naloxone to Veterans at risk for an opioid overdose. Knowledge gained from this project was applied in a variety of ways, and VA now has the largest naloxone distribution program of any U.S. health care system.

2010s Substance use disorders 20180801

Improving care for Veterans in VA community living centers
What began as a pilot project at the Bedford (Massachusetts) VA has been rolled out nationally and impacted care for Veterans residing at VA community living centers across the country.

2010s Health care delivery 20180801

Bladder bundle program significantly reduces catheter-associated urinary tract infections
A "bladder bundle" set of practices developed by VA researchers has been adopted nationwide, in both VA and non-VA hospitals, as a way to reduce catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

2010s Infectious diseases 20180801

Spreading best practices in stroke care
VA providers implemented best practices in stroke care based on research from the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.

2010s Cardiovascular disease 20180801

Precision Oncology Program
VA patients nationwide with a common form of lung cancer now routinely have their tumors genetically sequenced to help determine the best therapy, thanks to a program initiated by researchers and clinicians in VA’s New England region. The program is one of several efforts launched by VA in the area of precision oncology.

2010s Cancer 20180723

Virtual Hope Box smartphone app to prevent suicide
VA investigators teamed with Department of Defense colleagues to create a phone app, the Virtual Hope Box, that helps with suicide prevention.

2010s Suicide prevention 20180725

STRIDE program to keep hospitalized Veterans mobile
The STRIDE program was developed by VA researchers in Durham to help keep hospitalized Veterans mobile. This has been shown to improve post-hospital outcomes. The program is now being implemented at a number of other VA facilities.

2010s Health care delivery 20181106

Emergency Department Patient-Aligned Care Team (ED-PACT) Transfer Tool
Researchers at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System developed a tool using VA’s electronic health record system to enable emergency care clinicians to send messages to Veterans’ primary care teams alerting them to the patients’ specific needs after their emergency visits. The tool is now being disseminated and is expected to curb repeat emergency visits and hospitalizations.

2010s Health care delivery 20181107

Tools to aid decision-making for lung cancer screening
Researchers at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System played a key role in developing tools to help patients and their health care providers weigh the risks and benefits of lung cancer screening.

2010s cancer 20181114

A web platform to diagnose and manage sleep apnea
VA researchers in San Diego, Atlanta, and Philadelphia developed a web platform, called the Remote Veteran Apnea Management Platform (REVAMP), to allow rural and other Veterans to be evaluated for sleep apnea without traveling to a VA sleep center. The system also helps in the management of the condition.

2010s sleep 20181114

Safer prescribing for older adults after emergency care
VA researchers and colleagues developed a program called Enhancing Quality of Provider Practices for Older Adults in the Emergency Department (EQUiPPED) to help providers prescribe the safest drugs to older patients discharged after emergency visits.

2010s Health care delivery 20181114

VA research helps lay groundwork for new CDC guidelines on opioids
As a result, in part, of the work of VA researchers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation’s health protection agency, changed its opioid prescription guidelines.

2010s Substance use disorders 20181121

Telemedicine outreach for PTSD
The Telemedicine Outreach for PTSD (TOP) program, now in use at 12 VA clinics serving rural Veterans, delivers therapy and other care through phone and interactive video contact. It was developed based on several VA studies showing that remote delivery of psychotherapy for PTSD can be safe, feasible, and effective.

2010s PTSD 20181121

New tools to reduce delays in diagnosing cancer
Dr. Hardeep Singh and colleagues at VA’s Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety (IQuESt) in Houston have developed a number of tools—such as triggers within VA’s electronic health record system—designed to prevent delays in follow-up of abnormal test results and diagnosis of cancer.

2010s Health care delivery 20181121

Drug approved to diagnose adult growth hormone deficiency
Based on VA research results, the FDA approved the drug Macrilen to diagnose adult growth hormone deficiency. The condition affects about 60,000 adults in the U.S. and Canada.

2010s Endocrinology 20181129

Validation of screening tool for intimate partner violence
VA researchers tested and validated a screening tool, or brief questionnaire, to elicit reports of intimate partner violence experienced by women Veterans. VA now uses the tool nationwide.

2010s Women’s health 20181129

Individual Placement and Support to help Veterans find jobs
The Individual Placement and Support model was initially developed to help people with serious mental illness find employment. VA researchers have adapted and studied the approach to help Veterans with spinal cord injury and PTSD, and their work has led to wide implementation of IPS in the VA system.

2010s PTSD 20180813

Vision screening protocol after a traumatic brain injury
In 2011, VA Palo Alto Health Care System researchers reported that many Veterans with traumatic brain injuries also have "hidden eye injuries" that may go undetected without comprehensive eye examinations. Their work led to new guidelines for eye-care providers in VA and the Department of Defense, and the development of a clinical tool to be used for screenings or exams.

2010s Vision Loss 20180921

Oral hygiene to fight pneumonia
VA researchers developed and implemented a program to increase oral hygiene in community living center and hospital patients. This simple initiative has greatly reduced cases of hospital-acquired pneumonia, saving Veterans’ lives and increasing their quality of life.

2010s Respiratory health 20190507

Physical environment checklist leads to sharp decline in inpatient suicides at VA facilities
In 2007, VA researchers and clinicians launched the Mental Health Environment of Care Checklist to reduce Veteran suicides in inpatient settings. A study published 10 years later found that the program led to a sharp decline in suicides at VA inpatient mental health units from 2000 to 2015.

2000s Suicide Prevention 20180921

Treating cardiac arrhythmias
VA research in the 1990s and 2000s was crucial in the development of cardiac ablation as a way to treat cardiac arrhythmia. Cardiac arrhythmia is a heart condition in which the heart beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly. Untreated arrhythmias may have serious consequences, such as heart attack and stroke.

2000s Cardiovascular disease 20190318

Restoring the ability to cough for those with spinal cord injury
Many people with spinal cord injury are at risk for serious respiratory infections and pneumonia because they cannot cough to clear their lungs and airways. A cough stimulator developed by VA researchers and colleagues in Cleveland is now in use clinically, reducing the incidence of respiratory infections, improving quality of life, and dramatically reducing the costs of care for Veterans and others with SCI.

2000s Spinal cord injury, respiratory health 20190321

Prolonged exposure therapy to treat PTSD
Thousands of VA mental health counselors have been trained in prolonged exposure therapy to treat PTSD, partly thanks to positive results from a large VA study of the treatment in female Veterans.

2000s PTSD 20180725

Progressive Tinnitus Management
Progressive Tinnitus Management, an audiology program adopted nationwide in both VA and Department of Defense clinics, was developed by VA’s National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research.

2000s Hearing loss 20180801

Stepped-care and collaborative-care models for chronic musculoskeletal pain
Stepped-care and collaborative-care models, validated in VA research trials, have become central to VA’s standard approach to treating chronic pain among Veterans.

2000s Pain 20180725

The LUKE/DEKA advanced prosthetic arm
VA researchers were integral in testing and optimizing the LUKE/DEKA advanced prosthetic arm, and Veterans are now receiving the device.

2000s Prosthetics 20180801

Powered ankle-foot prosthesis
In 2007, researchers with VA, MIT, and Brown University introduced a "powered ankle-foot prosthesis," which uses tendon-like springs and an electric motor to move users forward. The device is now helping Veterans and active-duty service members.

2000s Prosthetics 20180801

“Flight simulator” tool to monitor medications in electronic health records
A tool developed more than a decade ago by VA researchers to simulate the way electronic health records (EHRs) process clinicians’ medication orders has recently been shown to reduce harm to patients throughout the United States.

2000s informatics 20210112

Improving surgical outcomes through data
VA researchers developed NSQIP, a system for collecting, analyzing, and reporting patient risk factors and post-surgical outcomes that is used today throughout the health care industry to improve the quality of surgical care.

2000s Health Care Delivery 20210218

Shingles vaccine approved by FDA
VA led the clinical trial that resulted in FDA approval for a shingles vaccine. FDA's initial approval for the use of the vaccine in people over 60 years old came in 2006. In 2011, the vaccine was approved for those 50 years old and over. The CDC has recommended that adults 50 years and older get vaccinated.

2000s Infectious diseases 20190501

Keeping donor organs viable for transplant
VA researchers and colleagues invented technology that will enable more organ transplants and improve patient outcomes. The technique is called “warm perfusion.” It keeps transplant hearts and other organs viable using an artificial circulatory system.

2000s Cardiovascular disease 20200124

Demonstrating an edge for on-pump cardiac bypass surgery
A multisite VA study on coronary artery bypass graft surgery, published in 2009, has helped improve how doctors perform this operation. The study demonstrated the advantages of on-pump, versus off-pump, surgery for heart patients.

2000s Cardiovascular disease 20191004

Biomarker to diagnose heart failure
In the early 2000s, San Diego VA researcher Dr. Alan Maisel pioneered the use of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) as a biomarker for heart failure. Levels of the hormone can be easily assessed with a blood test. Today, the BNP test is used around the world to help diagnose heart failure.

2000s Cardiovascular disease 20191004

Millennium Cohort Study and respiratory health
The goal of the Millennium Cohort Study is to determine how military-related experiences affect the long-term health of service members and Veterans. Based on data from the study, VA began recognizing disability claims related to particulate matter exposure during service.

2000s Afghanistan & Iraq, Respiratory Health 20211007

Treating inguinal hernias
VA research clarified the risks and rewards of treatments for groin hernias, helping patients make the best decision for their care.

2000s Hernia Surgery 20210218

Clinical Assessment Reporting and Tracking System for Cath Labs (CART-CL)
The VA Clinical Assessment Reporting and Tracking System for Cath Labs (CART-CL) is a national VA reporting system, data repository, and quality improvement program for procedures performed in the department’s 77 cardiac catheterization laboratories

2000s Cardiovascular disease 20211228

Colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening
A 2000 VA study found that colonoscopies, in which a long, flexible tubular instrument is used to visually inspect the entire colon, could detect abnormal growths called neoplasms better than sigmoidoscopies, which use a flexible instrument that inspects only the lower colon.

2000s Cancer, Gastrointestinal health 20211228

COURAGE trial helped guide preventive heart care
VA’s COURAGE trial showed that taking medicine as directed, exercising regularly, and successfully managing diet gives patients the opportunity to avoid angioplasty procedures and the risks associated with them. The study guides cardiovascular risk-reduction guidelines used today.

2000s Cardiovascular disease 20211228

VA Diabetes Trial
The VA Diabetes Trial (VADT) provided important insights into how intensive glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes affects cardiovascular outcomes, helping guide doctors and patients on the best treatment to pursue.

2000s Diabetes 20220114

Deep Brain Stimulation
In 2009 VA and NIH completed the first large-scale analysis of the results of deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease. They found that it could hold significant benefits for those with PD who no longer responded well to medication alone.

2000s Parkinson's disease 20220114

Integration of mental health care into primary care
To improve VA’s ability to care for Veterans with mental health problems, especially those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the department launched a National Primary Care-Mental Health Integration Program in 2007.

2000s Mental health, Health care delivery 20220301

Advances in the treatment of laryngeal cancer
A team of VA surgeons published the results of a study on laryngeal cancer that has spared tens of thousands of Veterans and other Americans the ordeal of recovering from major surgery and enabled them to continue to speak in their normal voices.

1990s cancer 20210218

Improving flu and pneumonia vaccination rates
VA research in the 1990s laid the groundwork for significant increases in rates of flu and pneumonia vaccination among VA patients and health care staff. The research especially improved vaccination rates for Veterans with spinal cord injuries and other vulnerable patient populations.

1990s Infectious diseases, spinal cord injury 20200303

SmartWheel enhances the well-being of wheelchair users
The SMARTWheel, developed by the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, was designed to help wheelchair users avoid repetitive stress injuries. It is in use at more than 175 clinics and labs nationwide.

1990s Prosthetics 20180801

Diabetes drug from Gila monster venom
VA researchers discovered a new diabetes drug from an unusual source: the Gila monster, a large lizard native to the southwestern U.S. A hormone in the lizard’s venom stimulates insulin production. A drug based on the discovery is now used by more than 2 million people worldwide.

1990s Diabetes 20190507

An aspirin a day to prevent heart attack and stroke
A 1983 VA clinical trial found that a single aspirin tablet a day reduced the risk of death from heart attack by half among men with unstable angina. The study has been cited countless times in support of using aspirin in these patients, and the therapy has become standard medical practice.

1980s Cardiovascular disease 20180813

Development of the nicotine patch for smoking cessation
VA researchers developed the nicotine patch in 1984. For decades, the device has been widely used to help smokers quit.

1980s Substance use disorders 20180801

Foot Function Index
In the 1980s, VA researchers developed a questionnaire to rate foot pain and disability. Today, it is in wide use across the world and has been translated into 20 languages.

1980s Pain 20200221

A fitness program for older Veterans
In the mid-1980s, the Durham VA Health Care System began offering Gerofit, an exercise and health promotion program for older Veterans. Today, Gerofit is available at 17 VA facilities throughout the United States.

1980s Cardiovascular disease, Obesity 20200901

Identification of the GFAP protein, used in brain-injury diagnosis
In 1971, researchers at the VA Palo Alto Medical Center isolated the protein GFAP, which is now used to help determine whether a head injury may have resulted in brain damage that cannot be detected through CT scans.

1970s Traumatic brain injury 20220301

Foundation of modern endocrinology
Nobel-winning longtime VA scientist Dr. Andrew Schally established the foundation for many research areas, including neuroendocrinology and reproductive endocrinology. His work has led to new treatments for certain cancers and laid the groundwork for advances in reproductive medicine.

1970s Endocrinology 20180802

Gleason score for prostate cancer
In the 1960s, VA researcher Donald Gleason and colleagues developed a grading system to classify the stage and prognosis of prostate cancer. Today, the Gleason score is considered the most reliable measure of how likely a prostate tumor is to grow and spread.

1960s Cancer 20180801

Drug therapy for moderate high blood pressure
In the 1960s, VA undertook the first well-designed, placebo-controlled clinical trial to show whether medication can prevent deaths in those with moderate high blood pressure. The research led to a revolution in the care of people with hypertension.

1960s Cardiovascular disease 20180813

First successful liver transplant
Longtime VA transplant surgeon and research scientist Dr. Thomas Starzl was widely regarded as the “father of transplantation.” He is credited with the "first-ever series of repetitively successful human kidney transplantations” and the first successful liver transplant.

1960s Regenerative medicine 20180824

Smoking increases lung cancer risk
Pioneering work at the East Orange VA Medical Center in the 1960s established the causal link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

1960s Cancer, Respiratory health 20190501

Making dialysis safer
In the 1960s, VA researchers developed a technique of using artificial arteriovenous fistulae to remove blood from the body and to return the blood once it had been filtered. This technique made dialysis treatment safer and easier.

1960s kidney disease 20210218

Testing for airborne pathogens
A 1950s experiment at the Baltimore VA Medical Center showed how tuberculosis was spread through the air. It is part of the reason many physicians and others recommend people wear masks to keep from being infected by dangerous airborne pathogens, such as the virus that causes COVID-19.

1950s Infectious diseases, Respiratory health 20200901

Dr. Robert Schrek’s work on the link between smoking and cancer
Research by Dr. Robert Schrek in the 1950s helped established a strong circumstantial link between smoking and respiratory cancer.

1950s Cancer, Respiratory health 20220127

Dr. DeBakey and Dacron grafts
Dr. Michael DeBakey created a prosthetic graft to fix weakened arteries out of a synthetic material called Dacron. The graft is still widely used today. DeBakey is known as “the father of vascular surgery” for this and many other accomplishments.

1950s Cardiovascular Disease 20210222

Radioimmunassay: Invaluable technique for measuring substances in the blood
Radioimmunoassay, widely used in medicine today to measure substances in the blood, was developed by VA researchers Dr. Rosalyn Yalow, who would go on to win a Nobel Prize for the work, and Dr. Solomon Berson.

1950s Diagnostics 20180802

The invention of the cardiac pacemaker
VA researchers developed and tested the first clinically successful cardiac pacemaker. The invention prevents potentially life-threatening complication from irregular heartbeats.

1950s Cardiovascular disease 20180802

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Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.