Regional VA using technology to keep Veterans informed, manage appointments


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The Phoenix VA Health Care System launched VEText, in December to provide Veterans a convenient text message system to remind them of appointments and allow them to opt out of an appoint with a simple text message reply.

Reniecka Robinson, the administrative officer for scheduling and operations, said the program can be very convenient and every Veteran in the Phoenix VA system is automatically enrolled in the program.

“The Loma Linda VA Medical Center implemented the VEText program two years ago,” Robinson said. “They did a test run, and the results were so great that the Veterans Integrated Service Network 22 decided to introduce the program to all the medical centers in the region.”

So, the Phoenix VA joined Loma Linda and the other health care systems and medical centers in the Desert Pacific Healthcare Network and adopted the program for all primary care patients. Robinson said as of Dec. 22, the program became available for specialty appointments as well, adding the text messages do not replace the letters, postcards and automated phone calls Veterans already receive for appointment reminders, but are just another communication channel available between the VA and Veterans.

“The really great thing about the program is the convenience for Veterans to cancel appointments,” Robinson explained. “Veterans just need to respond to the text with ‘cancel’ and the slot immediately opens up for the next Veteran. The goal is to increase access by reducing missed opportunities.”

In less than a year, the Loma Linda VA’s no-show rate for appointments dropped from 16.9 percent to 12.7 percent, which means many more appointments available for other Veterans. Because the program automatically enrolls Veterans in the Phoenix VA system, Robinson said it’s important for Veterans and staff to ensure patients have updated contact information.

“The first message will go out five days before the appointment, and then the Veteran will receive a reminder the day before the appointment,” Robinson said. “The Veteran can respond ‘cancel’ to either message, and the appointment will be opened up for a fellow Veteran. I think this program will have a big impact on our Veterans, and I’m excited to see the results.”

James Fawbush, a U.S. Army Veteran with multiple deployments, said he prefers text messages.

“I get automated phone calls and emails,” Fawbush said. “My providers also call me to follow up and schedule my appointments. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the care I receive.”

If you’re not receiving appointment reminders via text message, please be sure to contact your primary care clinic to update your contact information.

Author

Macario Mora

Macario Mora is a public affairs specialist at the Phoenix VA Health Care System and serves as the primary staff writer. He served eight years as a Marine combat correspondent and is currently a captain in the Arizona Army National Guard. Macario holds a BA and MA in American History.

Comments

  1. Mert P. Capil    

    On or about 01/09/2018 Dr. Mian (VA Health Center La Jolla) contacted me and set appointment on 01/16/2018. I needed to see Dr. Mian for refill of my medication. I am out of medication for over a week. I reported on or about 12:20 P.M. 01/16/2018, at 2 North and 2 South VA La Jolla. Both receptions can not find and I was told I do not appointment. I asked couple of personnel and can not remember Dr. Jan Mian at the mental health dept. I was very upset and disgusted why the system failed to accommodate and locate my appointment nor never communicate with Dr. Jan Mian. In about 35 minutes later Dr. Mian contacted me and asked where I am at no show on my appt. I told him I was present at the mental dept. And I can no longer return at the VA La Jolla because we are on our to my wife dental appt. This failure of the system is unacceptable for Veterans.

  2. Michael Gutierrez    

    wow, get excited over getting or cancelling appointments. the problem is actually getting to see a doctor, pa’s are okay but sometimes you need to see a doctor. I cannot applaud something that does not work, I always have to wait at least an hour or more to see someone in urology. last time it was three hours before I left in disgust. I called the directors office to voice my concerns, they told me someone would call, it’s been 2 weeks and no one has called. maybe an appointment should be eligible for a bucket list request.

  3. Ronald Dunlap    

    This is good if you do texting as most older vets don’t.

  4. Richard Allan Burdge    

    No matter what way you have its great for me and the one thing i will never do is not show up i will always let you know way in advance if ever i cancel an appointment so other veterans can have that day and department!!!!! the system now is just great keep doing what you are doing and thank you very much for this!!!!!!

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