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Medical centers run by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are dealing with a surge of COVID-19 patients across the country.  VA is combatting the virus with several approaches.  In March, they created an operations plan to protect Veterans and staff from acquiring COVID-19 infection.  Their strategy includes ways to leverage technology, communications as well as using dedicated staff and space to care for COVID-19 patients and establish safety zones at VA medical centers.  Their safe environment setup is a system where one VA facility operates as two separate “zones” (Standard and COVID-19) for inpatient care.

This week, to help streamline Veteran access to medical care during the coronavirus pandemic, VA launched a digital COVID-19 screening tool (https://www.va.gov/covid19screen/).

Veterans, caregivers, and staff can use the tool by texting the word “SCREEN” to 53079 or by scanning a dedicated QR code with their mobile phone to get a link to the instrument. The user then answers a series of questions that focus on the individual’s current health, such as “Have you had a cough or shortness of breath? In the past three days, have you had a fever, sore throat, muscle pain, vomiting, or diarrhea or a change in smell or taste? Do you currently have a sore throat, runny nose, or nasal congestion?” The survey tool also asks about contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 within the last 14 days.

If patients, caregivers, or staff answer “no” to all six questions, the app produces a blue screen-clearing the person to enter the VA facility that day. If not, a light blue screen appears, which means more screening upon arrival.

According to a news release sent out on June 29, VA says the tool will help them lower their stakeholders’ exposure of risk to COVID-19 and can help ease patient stress.

Veterans, their caregivers, and VA health care employees can use this tool on their mobile phones before entering facilities. VA says it takes less than a minute to complete, and the tool will help them reduce wait times.

The effort is a partnership between VA and U.S. Digital Service, a group of technologists from diverse backgrounds working across the federal government to transform critical services for the people.

VA lists all active COVID-19 cases from state to state on their access to care website at https://www.accesstocare.va.gov/Healthcare/COVID19NationalSummary.

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