A new reporting tool allows VHA leadership to monitor its national COVID-19 case load, hospital staffing, bed and supply availability in real-time.

Called the National Surveillance Tool (NST), the tool brings together information from dozens of different publicly available internal and external databases to provide an unprecedented view of the battlefield in the war against COVID-19.

The tool’s databases can display the number of positive cases in a community or in a region, and with customizable view options, VA staff can see all the elements necessary to run their health care systems from a strategic, operational, or tactical perspective.

“Readiness is all about surveillance,” said Katherine Wallace, Pharm. D., VA’s Director of Biosurveillance. “It allows us to better provide VA employees with what they need to care for our nation’s Veterans.”

Putting it together

Long before the novel coronavirus emerged, VA’s National Infectious Disease Services were already working to track biological events. From there, the NST came to fruition in just a few short weeks, and quickly expanded to include a number of offices throughout VA.

Tami Box, Ph.D., Director of the Clinical Systems Development and Evaluation (CSDE), began brainstorming how VHA could expand this tool to respond to the coming pandemic and what existing resources and experts in VA she could tap for help.

Each office brought multiple data sources to the table. The challenge was bringing them to life in one platform with graphical displays specific to various audiences, from leadership to the field.

As the tool was coming together, the team needed involvement from regional and national offices to make sure the data also met their needs in predicting and preparing for COVID-19 surges and re-opening of VA medical facilities.

Rooted in High-Reliability Organization (HRO) Principles

“To me, this tool is all about HRO, particularly the leadership commitment,” said Dr. Joel Roos, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Quality, Safety, and Value.As a leader, the most important job is to make sure your patients and staff are cared for, ensuring they have everything they need to provide high quality care.”

To do this, employees needed reliable, real-time data. This is where Box came in, meeting individually with staff at facilities who are on the frontlines of data collection. They walked through patient lists and talked through definitions of case status and how they could understand inventory levels to make sure they align with the tool.

But the tool needed to also reduce field reporting requirements, not increase them.

The NST allows data to be put in once at the field level, then it flows into the various National Surveillance Tool views and required tracking reports at the state and national levels. This removes those requirements from the field so they can continue focusing on patient care.

“It’s like being at the top of a mountain with a really powerful telescope,” said Dr. Joe Francis, Chief Improvement & Analytics Officer at the Reporting, Analytics, Performance, Improvement and Deployment (RAPID) office.

“You can see everything from how many beds you have in a region to how many ventilators or PPE [personal protective equipment] are in an individual hospital,” Roos added.

A public view of this powerful tool is available on the VA COVID-19 National Summary webpage.

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Published on May. 21, 2020

Estimated reading time is 2.7 min.

Views to date: 716


  1. Rick Drost June 6, 2020 at 2:29 am

    I’m curious about the VA testing for COVID-19. I recently had an appointment at my local VA Clinic and as I walked in the door I was met and asked questions about any symptoms of COVID-19. I stated that I haven’t experienced any symptoms to my knowledge, however, I had been exposed to someone who did have it about a month before I found out about that and exposed to a person who works in a surgery center who may have been exposed to someone who had COVID-19. The answers I received were that to get tested by the VA I needed to have or had symptoms which doesn’t make much sense to me because I’ve been told not everyone has or shows symptoms of it. Can you please explain this to me and any other veterans with questions of this nature. Thank you.

  2. Karl Hawes June 5, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    Before you get your shorts all twisted, click this link: VA COVID-19 National Summary webpage. This is the link to see the information, It’s in the last sentence of thte article. Try reading the arrticle before jumping to conclusions
    To all the people at the Fargo, ND Va, thank you VA for all you do. I won’t be alive without your care.

  3. Ron June 5, 2020 at 12:35 am

    On June 5th, the tool still doesn’t work. I suggest the VA getting it working ASAP, or take down the site and the rah! rah! .

    • Jo M-S June 7, 2020 at 6:11 pm

      Link at end of article. It wasn’t clear. I also clicked on the map at the beginning. Last sentence: “A public view of this powerful tool is available on the VA COVID-19 National Summary webpage”.

  4. Wilfredo Davila June 4, 2020 at 10:44 pm

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs never fails, to fail exponentially! Any reputable business in the private sector will test a product/service, a multitude of times, before rolling it out for public use, but unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs is not a [reputable] governmental agency – they will always do everything half-ass, because there is no requirement or need for accountability within the [lame] system…

  5. Sheryl Jeffrey June 4, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    Works just fine. Don’t click on the picture; click the link at the end of the article.

  6. David Cornelissen June 4, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    I recently received disability status. However, I am unable to acquire a VHIC card as both the Ft. Belvoir and the DC VA Medical Center are issues cards because of the pandemic. I have visited Ft. Belvoir and called the DC Center (202 745 8000 ext 56333). How do I get the VHIC card and when will physical therapy for my chronic back problem be available.

    David Cornelissen

  7. Bruce Moore June 4, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    To those wanting the map to work and get more info please click the VA COVID-19 National Summary Webpage in blue in the last line of the article. Took a while to notice the link but it worked for me.

  8. Gary Bridges June 4, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Maybe you need to check out the system before you throw this out for people to try to use as it does nothing and give me no confidence in your abilities. I can find out more information by walking out to my chicken coop and talking to the girls!

    • JIGENDRA N MAHARAJ June 4, 2020 at 3:14 pm

      Click on:

      VA COVID-19 National Summary webpage

      at the very end of the article.

  9. Larry majorana June 4, 2020 at 10:54 am

    I think it’s just a picture of a map!

    • DD Morgan June 4, 2020 at 1:38 pm

      If you click the link in the last sentence, it brings up a functional map on a new page. It takes a while to come up, but I was able to enlarge the map, view data, and search for a specific location.

      The link is just barely a different color from the rest of the sentence, maybe the web designer can make it stand out a bit?

      Here is the link, if you want to copy/paste:

    • JIGENDRA N MAHARAJ June 4, 2020 at 3:16 pm

      A public view of this powerful tool is available on the VA COVID-19 National Summary webpage.

  10. Larry Speaks June 4, 2020 at 9:50 am

    I don’t see the relevants of this to a veteran if it doesn’t function.

  11. David W Thomas Jr June 4, 2020 at 9:06 am

    Please notify when your system works. It is not interactive.

    • JIGENDRA N MAHARAJ June 4, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      A public view of this powerful tool is available on the VA COVID-19 National Summary webpage.

      just click on the link

  12. Theodore James June 4, 2020 at 8:47 am

    Why is Donna Statford’s picture covering a Link?

  13. Theodore James June 4, 2020 at 8:46 am

    I am trying to see what’s happening in Cincinnati Ohio, but your Surveillance Tool is Malfunctioning. I’m Still waiting on the repair.

    • JIGENDRA N MAHARAJ June 4, 2020 at 3:12 pm

      The link is at the very end of the article : VA COVID-19 National Summary webpage

  14. Theodore James June 4, 2020 at 8:44 am

    Your Interactive Map Tool is NOT Interactive.

  15. Theodore James June 4, 2020 at 8:43 am

    The Map is not working correctly. Why is Donna Stratford’s picture covering a Link? Your Webmaster is not doing the screen review and Testing Each of the Links on the page.

  16. Theodore James June 4, 2020 at 6:59 am

    The national surveillance tool has a Graphics Flaw such that we can’t see the bottom of the tool.

  17. Alton R Polson June 4, 2020 at 3:14 am

    It would be great if we could actually access the map and see the number for the facilities we use.

  18. Tom Church June 3, 2020 at 11:05 pm

    Rah Rah Shish Kum Bah, VA is amazing at stroking itself. This is an example. This is a direct quote from the VA administrative cheerleader via the Author, Donna Stafford; ““To me, this tool is all about HRO, particularly the leadership commitment,” said Dr. Joel Roos, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Quality, Safety, and Value. “As a leader, the most important job is to make sure your patients and staff are cared for, ensuring they have everything they need to provide high quality care.”

    Here is something that matters. Where is your effort with this nonsense on Veteran Suicieds. How is that going for VA? Post that pandemic with this same tool. Get off your seats, go out and start doing what you are fluffing here for Verteran Parking Lot suicides, Veteran Suicides, etc…

    I get email after email of all the fluff, and this quote I refreranced nearly takes the prize. Wake up VA! Get your administrative head out of your fairytale of fluff! Thank you to the author for enlightening us to the pandemic information.

  19. Otto Bryan Neely II June 3, 2020 at 10:19 pm

    As most of the VA announcements, this article is self congratulatory pablum.

    I want to know how this affects me. What means are available to get testing and what criteria apply.

    This is a public relations announcement with no real content or context for the average Veteran like me. Donna should be ashamed.

  20. Joe Edd McHargue June 3, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks for fine job. Covid 19.Has not effected me Closing of stores has.

  21. Kevin Simmons June 3, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    I clicked on the map and it doesn’t work. It brings up the map, but nothing on the map works when you try to click on it or type on it.

  22. Luis Bonilla June 3, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    Very informative and precise information, Thanks and keep up your work!

Comments are closed.

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