The FDA and the VA have a new MOU — and it spells good things for emerging health tech. This new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a joint effort between the two government agencies aimed at speeding up the development of medical devices and other advancements to the benefit of public health. Areas of emerging technology that they’re targeting may include artificial intelligence, machine learning, immersive technologies, 5G, and a range of wearables. All with a focus on bringing cutting edge medical solutions to veterans as well as to the American public at large.
The MOU’s initial collaborative focus will be on health information, namely the exchange of data among interoperable systems and medical equipment to help streamline diagnoses and treatments for patients. The goal is to push advancements in telemedicine, automation, and personalized healthcare, with an aim at improving care in underserved communities including rural populations. These interoperable systems play a crucial part in providing treatment and remote patient monitoring outside of hospital walls and other clinical settings, which may be far from where many of these people with healthcare needs live.
Then some MOU duties will be split; members of the FDA staff will focus on evaluating the science behind new products, as well as weighing the risks and benefits, while VA staff members will take a more hands-on approach with testing, training, and offering clinical context. The planned result is the creation of new programs that use medical devices with emerging technologies, with the intention that some of those devices are manufactured close to the clinical point of care of patients.
While Americans of all stripes may benefit from this joint effort, veterans have unique needs that the collaboration may address. Mental health is one area, as veterans have higher rates of posttraumatic stress disorder than the general population. A recent policy paper from the American College of Physicians posits that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which serves more than 9 million people, faces considerable challenges. These include a need to modernize its electronic medical records system, update outdated technology, and expand its community care program. As VHA enrollees have higher rates of chronic disease, including diabetes, than the general population, wearable tech and remote patient monitoring can play key roles in their care.
All at prices people can afford, as the stated goal of the joint FDA-VA mission is equitable healthcare, seeking high-tech but low-cost medical advances. The VA’s Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal says, “By working side by side, VA and FDA will leverage our combined strengths and expertise to bring the most promising health care technology innovations to veterans — and Americans at large — faster than ever before.”