Many VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) across the country are re-opening their doors and expanding services. To ensure the protection of both patients and staff, VA’s Office of Information and Technology (OIT) collaborated with the Durham VAMC to launch the COVID-19 digital pre-entry screening tool.

The digital pre-entry screener tool allows Veterans, caregivers, and employees to answer questions on their mobile phones and share their results at VA medical facility entrances. With in-person screening delaying access to care and increasing COVID-19 exposure risk, the digital pre-entry screener helps reduce wait times, ease stress, and lowers exposure risk.

“It’s amazing how much difference a simple tool can make when deployed in the right place and at the right time,” says Dr. Goldberg. “This was a great way to help our Veterans.”

The COVID-19 digital pre-entry screener was the brainchild of Jacob Goldberg — the son of Durham VAMC Chief-of-Staff Dr. Kenneth Goldberg. Jacob developed the idea for the screener tool after conversations with his father about the in-person COVID-19 screening process. During one of those conversations, Dr. Goldberg asked Jacob how difficult it would be to design something that could be done on a smart phone. As the in-person COVID-19 screening process was only a few multiple-choice questions, Jacob knew developing a digital version was something that could be easily implemented. In developing the prototype, Jacob used big buttons for answers and made the end screen use large text to ensure the screener was both mobile-friendly and easy to use.

Leaders in OIT quickly saw the potential for this prototype and assigned a team from its Digital Experience Product Office to develop an enterprise-wide version. In keeping with OIT’s agile methodology, they developed and launched the tool in just 12 days.

Designed in partnership with Veterans and medical center leadership, the team of designers and developers from OIT’s Digital Experience Product Office incorporated feedback from user testing to ensure the tool met Veteran and employee needs. Some of the tool’s features include:

  • Clear results.
  • Quick access to crisis support.
  • Easy-to-update screening protocols.

What Veterans are saying

  • “If you’re doing this from your vehicle, then you are at a safe distance from staff and others.”
  • “Less stress having it in this format.”
  • “Straight and to the point. Very easy to answer these questions.”
  • “I’m on a lot of sites and I know a lot of people who would love to do this.”

“The pre-entry screening tool is a great example of innovation in action at VA,” said VA CTO Charles Worthington. “In this case, staff at a local medical center took the initiative to solve a problem they were facing on the ground, giving our Digital Experience Product Office a template for a nationwide solution that every facility can benefit from.”

Expanding use

Currently in use in several VAMCs, including Lowell, Massachusetts; Columbia, South Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; and Los Angeles, California, the digital pre-entry screener has delivered over 140,000 screening results to date.

As tool usage continues to grow, the Office of the CTO will monitor performance and feedback and will update the tool’s features as needed. The development and launch of the COVID-19 digital pre-entry screening tool is another way VA reaffirms its commitment to provide Veterans with the best customer service.

To start using the COVID-19 digital pre-entry screener, VAMCs can simply direct patients and staff to text “screen” to 53079.


Submitted by VA’s Office of Information and Technology. 

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One Comment

  1. Malcolm Thomas August 18, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    What if you do not have a cell phone or have a cell phone with no phone service. Will you have internet service WiFi outside the entrance.

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