contributed by Liz Zaczek, senior staff writer
To increase access to health care for all veterans, and ensure social and physical distancing protocols are ensured and adhered to during the global Covid-19 pandemic, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has developed VEText, an interactive mobile solution to remind Veterans of upcoming appointments via text messaging. The goal is to offer veterans a quick and easy way to confirm and/or cancel medical appointments.
Throughout the nation veterans are receiving interactive VEText appointment reminders on their mobile devices. Every enrolled veteran with a cell phone number listed in their health record has automatically been enrolled in the program. In order to fully utilize the VEText system, ensure that the local VA medical center (VAMC) has your current phone numbers. Veterans may update their phone numbers during check-in at their next appointment, or use the self-service kiosks located throughout VA facilities.
VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) across the country are expanding services now that onsite patient care can safely resume during the Covid-19 pandemic. To ensure the protection of both patients and staff, VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT) worked with VHA to launch “I am Here,” a new VEText virtual check-in feature.
Features and How It Works
The first text message reminder will be sent seven days before the appointment followed by a second reminder text message automatically sent two days before the appointment. The timing/frequency of the reminders may vary by facility. Veterans should review the date and time of each appointment and use the prompts provided in the message to either confirm or cancel the appointment. Veterans with multiple appointments on the same day will receive multiple text message appointment reminders.
In addition to the text reminders a new feature, currently in use at 30 VA medical centers across the country, allows patients to check in for medical appointments remotely while ensuring social and physical distancing. To use the feature, Veterans at participating facilities can simply text a message to 53079 stating, “Here,” once they arrive in the parking lot of the facility where they have a scheduled appointment.
This text notifies the care team that the patient has arrived at the facility and is waiting to be called inside for their appointment. The Veteran will then receive an auto-response with a message acknowledging their check-in and an additional response directing them to await further instruction. Finally, the patient will receive a text message once their provider is ready to see them and it is okay to proceed into the building for the appointment.
In addition to the ability to check-in for appointments, the VEText service allows veterans to complete digital pre-entry Covid screening questions, features support for Spanish language messaging and support for non-scheduled appointments.
In addition to text message appointment reminders, VEText now offers earlier appointment slots for Veterans meeting certain criteria (wait time, service connected, etc.). This feature is called Open Slot Management (OSM). Veterans will automatically receive these text messages as long they have not opt-ed out of the VEText program. This feature allows veterans to reschedule their appointment for an earlier available appointment. By using the prompts provided in the message, the veteran can either reschedule or keep their current appointment. If the veteran chooses to reschedule their current appointment, VEText will book/schedule the veteran into the earlier slot and cancel the previously scheduled appointment.
Veterans who do not want to receive text messaging reminders can easily opt-out of the service. To opt-out, simply reply “STOP” to the text message. Additionally, all appointment reminder messages contain instructions on how to end the message delivery. To restart the text message appointment reminders at any time, simply text “START” to a previous text message from VEText and the service will resume.
For more information on the VEText system visit the Veterans Affairs website.