Every Monday morning, Air Force Veteran Patrick Quigley gets a text message reminder to weigh himself and reply with the results. He gets the same reminder at the end of the work week.
In between, he travels from his home in Rapid City, SD, to dam sites throughout Montana, the Dakotas and Nebraska for his job with the Army Corps of Engineers. While away, he receives motivational text messages with quick tips for eating right and staying active.
“I knew, based on my schedule, just when I’d need those words of encouragement,” Quigley said. “It’s not easy to watch your weight when you’re traveling.”
Vietnam-era Navy Veteran Robert King asked for his weigh-in text reminders to arrive three days a week. He gets motivational messages every day. After traveling to the Rapid City VA Clinic to participate in MOVE! Weight Management classes and participating in daily TeleMOVE! sessions from home, King was meeting his goals and wanted to downshift. He wanted to receive weight loss support from VA, but less frequently.
“I just said, ‘I don’t need this on a daily basis anymore. Is there a program I could do occasionally?’”
The answer was yes. That program – Annie for Veterans – is VA’s new, automated text messaging service to promote self-care–like weight management–for those enrolled in VA health care.
Meet Annie – named after Purple Heart nurse
Annie is named after Lt. Annie G. Fox, a registered nurse. Fox was the first woman to be awarded a Purple Heart for her service during Pearl Harbor. Here’s how Annie works.
Veterans and their VA clinicians work together to establish a personalized care plan. Then, Annie helps Veterans stick to that plan by sending them text reminders to track their own health data, take their prescriptions or engage in other prescribed health activities needed to meet their health goals.
The system can prompt Veterans to reply to Annie messages with self-recorded health readings. Examples are blood pressure, glucose, current weight and other metrics.
VA care teams use their application, Annie App for Clinicians, to enroll Veterans in the program, customize which automated messages Veterans receive and view Veterans’ submitted health readings. In these cases, Quigley and King receive Annie’s weight management protocol messages.
Other Annie protocols are available to support Veterans for hypertension, diabetes, tobacco cessation, pre-op and post-op surgery support, oncology symptom management and many others.
“When Veterans receive and reply to Annie messages, it helps them stick to their care plan and can lead to better health outcomes,” said Dr. Neil Evans, Chief Officer of Connected Care, the office that oversaw Annie’s development. “Annie empowers Veterans to be full partners in their care. It gives VA care teams a more complete set of data to draw from, which is helpful during Veterans’ regular visits and check-ins.”
More than Annie in common
While Quigley and King have never met, they have a lot in common. They both live in rural communities in the VA Black Hills Health Care System. Also, VA Telehealth Dietitian Melissa Treinen (pictured above) provides care for both Veterans.
Thanks in part to Treinen’s recommendation to use Annie, they’ve both been successful in attaining their weight loss and maintenance goals. In addition to each having lost more than 30 pounds, Quigley, who was pre-diabetic, now has significantly lower glucose readings.
In her role as a VA telehealth dietitian, Treinen said she uses Annie and many other VA technologies to remotely connect with Veterans under her care. “This is a pretty rural area. I use VA Video Connect to deliver one-on-one nutrition appointments right to Veterans’ homes so they don’t have to travel. The clinics are also equipped with telehealth equipment.”
King: “It’s not only Annie, it’s the support behind it. Melissa has been very helpful in keeping me on track. I’d just like to thank the VA for coming up with these types of programs that are beneficial and much needed for Veterans.”
Treva Lutes is the communications director for the VA Office of Connected Care.