The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Innovators Network: Evaluation design, methods and lessons learned through an embedded research approach.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Collaboration between researchers, implementers and policymakers improves uptake of health systems research. In 2018, researchers and VHA Innovators Network (iNET) leadership used an embedded research model to conduct an evaluation of iNET. We describe our evaluation design, early results, and lessons learned.


This mixed-methods evaluation incorporated primary data collection via electronic survey, descriptive analysis using existing VA datasets (examining associations between facility characteristics and iNET participation), and qualitative interviews to support real-time program implementation and to probe perceived impacts, benefits and challenges of participation.


We developed reporting tools and collected data regarding site participation, providing iNET leadership rapid access to needed information on projects (e.g., target populations reached, milestones achieved, and barriers encountered). Secondary data analyses indicated iNET membership was greater among larger, more complex VA facilities. Of the 37 iNET member sites, over half (n = 22) did not have any of the six major types of VA research centers; thus iNET is supporting VA sites not traditionally served by research innovation pathways. Qualitative findings highlighted enhanced engagement and perceived value of social and informational networks.


Working alongside our iNET partners, we supported and influenced iNET's development through our embedded evaluation's preliminary findings. We also provided training and guidance aimed at building capacity among iNET participants.


Embedded research can yield successful collaborative efforts between researchers and partners. An embedded research team can help programs pivot to ensure effective use of limited resources. Such models inform program development and expansion, supporting strategic planning and demonstrating value.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Vashi, AA; Orvek, EA; Tuepker, A; Jackson, GL; Amrhein, A; Cole, B; Asch, SM; Gifford, AL; Lindquist, J; Marshall, NJ; Newell, S; Smigelsky, MA; White, BS; White, LK; Cutrona, SL

Published Date

  • June 23, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 8 Suppl 1 /

Start / End Page

  • 100477 -

PubMed ID

  • 34175094

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8244154

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2213-0772

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2213-0764

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.hjdsi.2020.100477


  • eng