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VHA Center for Applied Healthcare Studies

A Center for Applied Healthcare Studies uses a collaborative, scientific approach to tackle today’s health care challenges in a safe, transparent environment. VHA and non-VHA organizations work with leading clinicians, administrators and researchers to explore new, evidence-based solutions addressing high quality, affordable care delivery for populations.

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Launched in 2012, the Center has been awarded multi-million dollar grants for two national initiatives to help hospitals improve patient outcomes, drive better quality and reduce costs.

  • Approximately $10 million to serve as a Hospital Engagement Network (HEN) for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Partnership for Patients initiative to reduce patient harm in 11 specific areas of focus (Dec. 2011 – Dec. 2014).
  • The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation awarded TransforMED, VHA, Phytel and Cobalt Talon with a three-year project of more than $21 million, of which VHA receives approximately $1.3 million over three years (June 2012 – June 2015). The Collaborative partnership will demonstrate the viability of the Patient-Centered Medical Neighborhood (PCMN).

The Center is organized into two divisions to explore and analyze solutions. These divisions provide the Center with opportunities to better understand the required quality and safety changes in health care today and to test new ideas in real-world environments.

  • Policy and Research division conducts an annual environmental assessment as well as VHA-directed studies where VHA is the principle investigator and VHA-Sponsored Studies where VHA functions as the convener.
  • Demonstrations division focuses on delivering both large and small-scale tests of change. 

Directing the Center’s research are eight nationally renowned industry experts in the fields of economics and finance, policy, design, safety and quality along with five VHA leaders. This advisory group will shape and prioritize the Center’s research agenda and provide guidance for future projects.

The Center will continue to focus on those aspects of health care reform that will form the foundation for the future of health care, such as population health, care coordination, patient engagement and experience, and safety and quality.


 Industry advisors

  • Susan Edgman-Levitan, PA - Executive director of the John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate in Health Policy, Harvard Medical School
  • Harry S. Hertz, PhD, FAAAS, HFACHE - Director emeritus, Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • David B. Nash, MD, MBA - Dean, Jefferson School of Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University
  • Meredith B. Rosenthal, PhD - Professor of health economics and policy, Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health
  • Valinda Rutledge, MBA, MSN - President/CEO, Rutledge Health Care Consulting
  • Marianne Udow-Phillips, MHSA - Director, Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation; University of Michigan School of Public Health

Past Advisors

  • Harlan M. Krumholz, MD, SM - Harold H. Hines Jr., Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health Yale University School of Medicine
  • Mary D. Naylor, PhD, FAAN, RN - The Marian S. Ware professor in gerontology and director of the New Courtland Center for Transitions and Health at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

 VHA advisors




Partnership for Patients Hospital Engagement Network

VHA was selected as one of only 26 private-sector organizations to be a part the historic Partnership for Patients initiative launched by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). VHA supports the Partnership’s objectives to reduce preventable harm by 40% and readmissions by 20% by the end of 2013. VHA has nearly 200 HEN hospitals participating in this initiative in 10 areas of focus. 


  • Three year contract (Dec. 2011 – Dec. 2014) totaling approximately $10M


  • Met and exceeded CMS Partnership for Patients goals in 10 of the 11 Adverse Event Areas, including a 21% reduction in 30-day all-cause readmission rates
  • Reduced harm-related health care expenditures by nearly $190 million
  • Trained 100% of our HEN hospitals in VHA’s Rapid Adoption Network™ improvement methodology (1,000+ hospital staff)
  • Provided more than 4,000 coaching calls and 1,000 site visits
  • VHA PfP Education Series programs:
    • Conducted 26 programs over three years
    • Reached nearly 12,250 viewers
    • Average program satisfaction score: 8.8 out of 10
    • More than 2,600 hours of continuing education credits
  • Developed Early Elective Delivery Reduction Program in partnership with the March of Dimes
  • Launched Leadership Model of Accountability Demonstration Project with Dr. Peter Pronovost and his team from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Safety and Quality
  • Partnered with The Healthcare and Patient Partnership Institute (H2Pi) to create Patient and Family Partnership Councils for Quality and Safety.  PFPCQS provides actionable strategies and practices to increase patient and family engagement.
  • Co-lead CMS’ Product Safety and Resource Management Affinity Group

Patient-Centered Medical Neighborhood

Awarded in 2012 by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, this collaborative partnership project, which includes 15 health systems and provider organizations, aims to demonstrate the viability of the Patient-Centered Medical Neighborhood expansion of the medical home concept, connecting hospitals, specialists and community health resources with primary care to drive better quality and superior patient experience at an affordable cost.


  • CMMI awarded TransforMED, VHA, Phytel and Cobalt Talon with a three-year project (June 2012-June 2015) of over $21 million, of which VHA receives approximately $1.3 million over three year


  • Fifteen Hospital / Health Systems and 90 Physician Practices selected as communities. Collaboratives created within the communities to share learnings and promote networking.
  • System implementation and “go live” activities including Practice Site Visits, Learning Collaboratives and Measurement Reporting
  • VHA Leading Practice Blueprint® developed for 12 different organizations highlighting leading practices in a Patient Centered Medical Neighborhood

Management Characteristics and their Role in Patient Experience

A survey by Seth Glickman, M.D., Asst. Professor, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, UNC Chapel Hill  was conducted from January – July 2013 to understand managerial approaches around patient experience in VHA hospitals and their relationship with publicly reported HCAHPS scores.

The survey was sent to chief patient experience officers at 416 VHA hospitals with 143 participating. 


  • Boards and chief executive officers viewed the patient experience as extremely important, while a lower rate of nurses and physicians were supportive of efforts to improve the patient experience.
  • Hospitals with collaborative cultures and higher physician engagement had higher Value-Based Purchasing total HCAHPS scores (P<0.05).
  • Overall motivation among organizations to improve patient experience is grounded in an effort to improve the quality of clinical care.

The results were published in June 2014. Read the full report.


 See all videos from CAHS industry advisors

National Quality Forum Member