Among the wide array of mobile applications and other digital on-demand tools that have emerged from Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Office of Information and Technology (OIT) in recent years, VEText now stands apart.
First introduced in 2017, VEText is a mobile application designed to assist Veterans in tracking healthcare appointments. On its debut, it broke new ground as an elegant solution to a persistent challenge: Keeping Veterans and their families informed in real-time about the status of healthcare appointments they had scheduled.
Fast-forward to 2020. The coronavirus pandemic led to the temporary closures of many VA Medical Centers nationwide. With VA call centers also impacted by limited staff and facility access, how would Veterans Health Administration (VHA) clinicians remain in close touch with Veterans and family members to schedule appointments during a period of uncertainty?
The answer or solution emerged during the height of VA’s COVID-19 mobilization — and it hinged on longstanding investments made by OIT in human capital and IT and digital transformation efforts.
For several years prior, technologists and designers from OIT’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) have maintained close working relationships with key leaders and specialists in VHA clinical and administrative offices, and in Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) operations. As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded in the first half of 2020, impacting the availability of VA facilities, experts in the office of the CTO remained in close contact with clinicians and administrators at VHA and VBA.
This is how CTO IT experts learned of a development that could potentially slow VA’s expanding COVID-19 testing program and an upcoming vaccine initiative. During this time, call centers across VA’s national footprint were struggling to manage patients’ appointment scheduling.
Within weeks, experts from the Office of the CTO had gathered datapoints from call centers and from VA Medical Centers and arrived at a pragmatic solution:
They would give VEText a makeover, reconfiguring its existing functionality to render it nimbler — and better suited to meet the needs of VHA and the Veterans they serve during the COVID-19-related disruption.
The resulting update of VEText — an IT version of what cultural innovators call a Glow Up — drove the successful scheduling of more than 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine appointments over text message exchanges by mid-April 2021.
OIT’s strong commitment to digital transformation paid off during a critically important period, along with its equally strong investment in collaborating across the enterprise.
Years before COVID-19 disrupted VA’s patient accessibility framework, “we’ve been engaging as closely as we can with our partners across the agency,” said Patrick Bateman, a Digital Service Expert in the Office of the CTO. “We’re not just in touch with them when there is a crisis,” Mr. Bateman said.
The agile-development mindset demonstrated by inter-agency partners made it possible for rapid updates to VEText’s functionality when it mattered most. The combined effort is a shining example of how collaboration between OIT and CTO experts, VHA and VA call center leaders activated the power of seamless interoperability that is safeguarding Veterans’ healthcare access.
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.