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.