Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas
Appointment Reminders via Text Messaging
VEText Update: Beginning September 3, 2018, VA text message appointment reminders will no longer be sent from a traditional 10-digit phone number. The new messages will come from a 5-digit short code. Find out more about this update here.
Attention Veterans! On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center launched VEText (Veteran Text Message Appointment Reminder System), a convenient system that reminds Veterans of their appointments with text messages. The system will allow the Veteran to confirm or cancel a scheduled appointment with a simple text message reply.
“Veterans with a phone number on file will receive a text message reminder for most VA appointments,” said Ricardo Wilson, Ambulatory Care Operations Director-Group Practice Manager. “It’s a convenient way for Veterans to confirm or cancel their appointments, and all our Veterans are automatically enrolled in the program.”
The first reminder text message will be sent seven days prior to the scheduled appointment. A second and final text reminder will be sent two days prior to the appointment. Veterans will be able to confirm or cancel the appointment by responding to the text message.
“If a Veteran is unable to make their appointment, they can respond to the text message cancelling the appointment, and that spot immediately opens for another Veteran,” said Wilson. “This will allow clinics enough time to act on cancellations by scheduling another Veteran in that slot.”
Personal and/or automated phone calls will still be made to remind patients of appointments. The text message will serve as an additional reminder.
Nationally, more than nine million VA health care appointments are unutilized each year due to missed appointments. The Veterans Health Administration has identified VEText an enterprise-wide solution to remind Veterans of upcoming appointments via text messaging.
The picture above is an example of the message Veterans will receive. For a preview on your phone, text ‘Demo’ to 909-245-9443.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Do I have to sign up for VEText?
A: This system automatically enrolls the Veteran into VEText based on the phone information already on file in our system, and will send reminder text messages their scheduled appointments.
Q: I do not want text message reminders for my appointments. How do I stop them?
A: Veterans can easily opt-out anytime by replying STOP to end the messages. All appointment reminder messages contain instructions on how to end the text messages.
Q: I accidentally opted out! What do I do?
A: Veterans can opt-in by replying “START” to a previous reminder message or text START to 909-954-0651, and the VEText service will resume.
Q: Will I receive reminder text messages for all my scheduled appointments?
A: Veterans will receive text message reminders for all outpatient clinic appointments at the Medical Center and all nine Community Based Outpatient Clinics. Veterans will not receive text message reminders for appointments in Lab, Community Care, Research, Telephone Clinics, and HBPC.
Q: What if I have multiple appointments on the same date?
A: If a Veteran has multiple appointments on the same date, the system will send a single text message identifying both appointments individually and providing separate options for confirming or cancelling each appointment individually.
Q: What happens if I don’t respond to the text message?
A: If you do not respond to the text message reminder, your appointment will remain scheduled.
Q: How do I update my phone number with the VA?
A: Veterans can update their phone number during the check-in or out process for any appointment, at any kiosk, or by going to MyHealtheVet.
Q: Will this cost me anything?
A: VEText will not cost the Veteran anything, with the possible exception of any text messaging charges associated with the Veteran’s cell phone carrier. Standard text messaging rates will apply.
Q: Will my Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and/or Protected Health Information (PHI) be included on the appointment reminders?
A: PII and PHI will not be included in text messages. This includes the clinic name. However, we are working on a process where the patient can opt-in to receive enhanced appointment reminders which will include additional appointment details.
Q: Will I still receive phone call and postcard reminders?
A: Yes! VEText will not replace letters, postcards, or automated phone call reminders. The text messages will serve as an additional reminder.
Q: Why do I have to respond with specific numbers or letters instead of just Y or N to confirm or cancel my appointments?
A: Due to how the VEText platform has been designed, it uses specific confirm/cancel codes. It allows the platform to match your response with a specific appointment. For example, you may have more than one appointment on a specific day, and receive more than one text message reminder. If you just respond “Y” or “N”, then the VEText platform wouldn’t know which appointment the response was in reference to. Replying with the confirm/cancel codes provided, allows VEText to match your response with the correct appointment.
Q: I have more questions, who can I ask?
A: Veterans can speak to any clinic administrator, Patient Advocate, or Patient Experience Team member regarding the text messages, or to provide suggestions. Questions regarding charges you may face for text messages must be referred to your cell phone carrier.