Many VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) across the country are re-opening their doors and expanding services. To ensure the protection of both patients and staff, VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT), working in collaboration with the Durham, North Carolina VAMC, recently launched the COVID-19 digital pre-entry screener.
The digital pre-entry screener tool allows Veterans, caregivers, and employees to answer questions on their mobile phones and share their results at VA medical facility entrances. With in-person screening delaying access to care and increasing COVID-19 exposure risk, the digital pre-entry screener helps reduce wait times, ease stress, and lowers exposure risk. “It’s amazing how much difference a simple tool can make when deployed in the right place and at the right time,” says Dr. Goldberg. “This was a great way to help our Veterans.”
The COVID-19 digital pre-entry screener was the brainchild of Jacob Goldberg — the son of Durham VAMC Chief-of-Staff Dr. Kenneth Goldberg. Jacob developed the idea for the screener tool after conversations with his father about the in-person COVID-19 screening process that existed. During one of those conversations, Dr. Goldberg asked Jacob how difficult it would be to design something that could be done on a smart phone. As the in-person COVID-19 screening process was only a few multiple-choice questions, Jacob knew developing a digital version was something that could be easily implemented. In developing the prototype, Jacob used big buttons for answers and made the end screen use large text to ensure the screener was both mobile-friendly and easy to use.
Leaders in OIT quickly saw the potential of this prototype and assigned a team from its Digital Experience Product Office to develop an enterprise-wide version. In keeping with OIT’s agile methodology, the tool was developed and launched in just 12 days — an unprecedented timeline made possible thanks to VA’s investment in the VA.gov platform, which provides a flexible base for quickly delivering new capabilities. Designed in partnership with Veterans and medical center leadership, the team of designers and developers from OIT’s Digital Experience Product Office incorporated feedback from user testing to ensure the tool met Veteran and employee needs. Some of the tool’s features include:
- Clear results
- Quick access to crisis support
- Easy-to-update screening protocols
Charles Worthington — VA’s CTO — applauded the designers, developers, and partners across VA who collaborated to bring this innovative pilot to nationwide deployment in weeks. “The pre-entry screening tool is a great example of innovation in action at VA. In this case, staff at a local medical center took the initiative to solve a problem they were facing on the ground, giving our Digital Experience Product Office a template for a nationwide solution that every facility can benefit from.”
Currently in use in several VAMCs including Lowell, Massachusetts; Columbia, South Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; and Los Angeles, California, the digital pre-entry screener has delivered over 140,000 screening results to date.
As usage of the tool continues to grow, the Office of the CTO will monitor performance and feedback and will update the tool’s features as needed. The development and launch of the COVID-19 digital pre-entry screening tool is another way VA is reaffirming our commitment to provide Veterans with the best customer service.
To start using the COVID-19 digital pre-entry screener, VAMCs can simply direct patients and staff to text “screen” to 53079.