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Washington DC VA Medical Center

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Changing the Game

Dr. Lynn Kataria, Chief of Neurology Education at the Washington DC VA Medical Center  demonstrates “Annie” on a mobile device.

Dr. Lynn Kataria, Chief of Neurology Education at the Washington DC VA Medical Center demonstrates “Annie” on a mobile device.

By Alan Greilsamer
Monday, April 25, 2016

Over the past two years, VA has been developing and field testing “Annie”, a new mobile messaging system that promotes self-care for Veterans. Annie sends regular, automated text message reminders to Veterans to help them track health information their VA care teams have requested.

While Annie is still in limited field-test, VA is looking to make it available to Veterans everywhere this year. VA providers like Dr. Lynn Kataria, Chief of Neurology Education, and an attending physician in both neurology and sleep medicine at the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center, already see the potential Annie has to be an integral part of the care VA delivers.

Dr. Kataria was the first VA provider to enroll a patient in Annie. She is currently using Annie as part of a randomized single blinded trial research study on improving outcomes for Traumatic Brain Injury  (TBI) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) patients by helping them improve their use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.

“We instantly saw the impact that this could have,” she says of the initial Annie demo that convinced her Annie was the right tool to use in the study.

Annie gives patients a more complete understanding of their health on an ongoing basis, and more control over their own care by helping them track health readings, such as blood pressure or glucose, and letting them know right away if something is wrong. Annie can also send medication and appointment reminders, and educational and motivational messages to help patients manage their care or learn more about their health. Veterans can receive text messages from Annie on any mobile device, making it more widely available to Veterans everywhere, including elderly Veterans or others who may not own a smartphone.

When Dr. Kataria introduced her patients to Annie, they were equally excited. Memory problems, which can lead to poor compliance with medication and treatment protocols, are a significant challenge for patients with comorbid TBI and OSA. Dr. Kataria describes the ability of her patients to get regular text message reminders to wear their CPAP machine as a “game changer,” and the app overall as something that makes them feel connected with their health.

“It was powerful,” she says, “when they got that first text message after pressing “Start” they felt they were part of something bigger.”

“All Providers Should Use This”

Dr. Kataria is looking forward to fully implementing Annie in her own practice, but also sees it as important for other disciplines. She’s optimistic about how it allows for ongoing, regular tracking of health data to give a more holistic view of a patients’ health, and to enable Veterans and their care teams to see how different issues connect and more easily identify patterns.

Her advice for other providers?

“They should be whole-heartedly enthusiastic about using [Annie]. [It] allows us to reach our patients in ways we couldn’t previously. All providers should use this. It can have an impact on the way we practice and ultimately we’re going to see our outcomes improved.”

Annie was named for Lt. Annie G Fox, a registered nurse who served in Pearl Harbor and was the first woman to be awarded a Purple Heart. It was based on award-winning technology from NHS England called Flo, and was developed in partnership with NHS England.

To learn more about Annie or to access training materials, visit the VA App Store at mobile.va.gov/app/annie-app-veterans.

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