COVID-19 provides VA opportunities to innovate access to care

These days, there’s not a moment that goes by that we’re not reminded that we are in the midst of a pandemic. From climbing cases worldwide to growing casualty numbers to the social division initiated by masks, it can become overwhelming when it’s your turn to visit your health care providers. We’re now over seven months into these unsettling times and, in that time, health care providers have developed processes and protocols for providing routine care. Most of them anyhow.

Locally, the VA Northern California Health Care System (NCHCS) has stepped up its game by putting into place ways Veterans, Caregivers, and Families can get the necessary while maintaining adherence to COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Below is a listing of items that you can use to ensure you and your provider keep safe.

COVID-19 Screening Tool: To speed up the COVID-19 screening process for VA NorCal Veteran patients and staff, a QR code was created to help patients and staff fast-track through screening stations at all NCHCS locations. To use the screening tool, you would scan the QR code with your smartphone before leaving home, answer several questions about possible COVID-19 symptoms, and, when you arrive to the facility, show your phone’s green screen to the screeners. Once cleared, you’re issued a wristband to show you are good to go. This innovation cuts the potential wait time resulting from having to verbally answer the screening questions. The screening questions can also be accessed HERE if you’re not used to using QR codes.

VEText Mobile Check-In: In August 2020, VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) across the country launched “I Am Here”, a new VEText virtual check-in feature.

This relatively new feature allows VA facilities to check in patients remotely while ensuring physical distancing. To use the feature, Veterans at participating facilities can simply text a message to 53079 stating, “Here,” once they arrive in the parking lot of the facility where they have a scheduled appointment.

This text then notifies the care team that the patient has arrived at the facility and is waiting to be called inside for their appointment. The Veteran will then receive an auto-response with a message acknowledging their check-in and an additional response directing them to await further instruction. Finally, the patient will receive a text message once their provider is ready to see them and it is okay to proceed to the appointment.

VA Video Connect: Due to increased demand for video-based care during the COVID pandemic, the VA has been working to develop the VA Video Connect application to help more Veterans and care teams use the system. This application allows Veterans and Caregivers to quickly and easily meet with VA health care providers through live video on any computer, tablet, or mobile device with an internet connection. Before the pandemic, VA Video Connect was recommended if you lived far from your VA facility or had limited access to facilities, had health conditions that made traveling to a VA specialist difficult, lacked time to regularly attend in-person appointments, or did not require a hands-on physical examination. Now, the application is an essential tool in accessing care for Veterans, Caregivers, and providers.

Apple product users (iPhone/iPad) will need to download the VA Video Connect iOS app from the Apple App Store to be able to use the video connect feature. Android users do not have to download additional software.

For more information on VA Video Connect, CLICK HERE.

Additional Information:

  • Visitors: Visitors are not allowed at VA NorCal facilities. Exceptions will be made only for those critical to the care of our patients. Absolutely no visitors allowed under age 18.
  • Masking: VA NorCal continues to require each patient, VA staff member, visitor, or contractor to wear a cloth face covering or other suitable mask when entering a VA NorCal facility.
  • Screening: VA NorCal continues to screen each person seeking entrance to a VA NorCal facility. 
  • Canteen: VA NorCal’s cafeteria, coffee shop, and convenience store continue to operate at the Sacramento VA Medical Center in Mather, CA. In order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure, food is carryout only and dine-in seating is not available in the cafeteria.

For more information on VA Northern California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CLICK HERE.