“I recently had a very different experience with the VA. Out of the ‘blue’ I received a text message from VA about three weeks ago inquiring if I would like to be scheduled for a COVID vaccine at my local VA clinic in Colorado Springs,” said 71-year-old Veteran Bruce Gardner.
The Veteran explained that “I replied yes. Within minutes I got another text message inviting me to select a couple of days and times during the following week when I would be available for the shot — I replied with two days and times — within minutes, another text told me I was now scheduled for the vaccine on one of my chosen times…helpful, easy, convenient, and timely! Amazing!”
Since mid-January more than 182,223 vaccine appointments have been scheduled through VEText across 111 medical facilities. The response from the Veteran community has been positive as demonstrated by this Veteran.
VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT) is continuously looking for ways that technology can enhance Veterans’ experiences, including leveraging VEText to better serve Veterans as a part of VA’s vaccine distribution effort.
VA was already using VEText for existing mobile phone text appointment reminders and COVID-19 pre-screening before entry to VA facilities. Now, OIT has implemented the newest COVID-19 Direct Scheduling feature that enables VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) local medical facilities to offer eligible patients an option to schedule an appointment for their COVID-19 vaccine by text message.
So, how does Direct Scheduling work?
- Veterans receive an automated text message from VEText number 53079 with a welcome message offering an opportunity to schedule their vaccine appointment.
- Once the Veteran enters their desired appointment date in their response text, VEText uses natural language processing to parse the requested date and time and looks up appointment availability on or near the requested time.
- The Veteran then receives a text message back with the available date and time.
- With the appointment offer made, the Veteran can choose to either:
- schedule their vaccine appointment
- request another time.
If the Veteran replies to the message with an affirmative response, they automatically will be scheduled for an appointment and receive a confirmation text. If a Veteran selects an appointment time that is not available, VEText offers a date and time close to the requested date and time.
Charles Worthington, VA OIT’s Chief Technology Officer, has applauded the developers across VA who collaborated to bring this innovative digital solution to nationwide deployment right when it is needed. “I continue to be impressed by the speed with which VA teams have quickly developed creative solutions to help VA respond to the pandemic. These innovations are a testament to the ingenuity and commitment of the public servants who work at VA to support our Veterans through this unprecedented situation.”
If a Veteran is already a patient of VHA, they don’t need to sign up to receive VEText messages: they are automatically opted in. However, Veterans are encouraged to sign-up on VA’s vaccine mini-hub to stay informed and receive updates regarding VA’s vaccine distribution efforts.
Our commitment to digital and IT transformation is shaped by daily dedication to customer service and the close collaboration of our workforce, managers, and leaders. Ready to join us in improving Veterans’ care? Check out all current information and technology career opportunities on DigitalVA. You can also contact VA’s Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer at 512-326-6600, Monday thru Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST or by submitting a resume to VACareers@va.gov.