OFFICE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, OFFICE OF THE CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER COVID-19 DIGITAL RESPONSE SCRUM TEAM
In 2018, team-members and leaders in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Information and Technology (OIT) Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) did not foresee it, but the new website they developed would prove an effective platform for battling COVID-19 that beset the United States in March 2020. For the technologists and design experts who work in the office of the CTO, the nimble machinery of VA.gov, as well as their ongoing collaboration with key business partners at VBA and VHA, boosted VA’s ability to quickly build and activate a startling array of solutions such as a COVID-19 Digital Screener, COVID-19 chatbot and an SMS texting solution to address the emerging challenges from COVID-19.
In the earliest stages of the pandemic, the team organized daily standup meetings to assess efforts needed and assigned work to subject matter experts as appropriate. The team edited multiple rounds of content and applied plain language improvements to ensure VA’s messages were easy to understand and as helpful as possible. In addition, team members also helped facilitate discussions with stakeholders across the VA to ensure all entities were appropriately consulted on Veteran-facing content, and ensure decisions were escalated as needed to support rapid response and fast delivery of information and services. Members of the VEText team adapted the messaging platform to help disseminate this key information to over 8 million Veterans. Together, this effort ensured that millions of Veterans received timely and accurate information about the pandemic and its impact on their VA services.
As the pandemic progressed, VA determined that there was a need for new and rapidly modified Veteran-facing tools, which the OCTO team designed and launched. At the height of COVID-19, the team deployed a COVID-19 chatbot in just 3 weeks. The chatbot has served as a resource to meet Veterans’ increased needs for information and services and as a tool to reduce center call volume so representatives can help callers with urgent medical needs as quickly as possible.
Most recently, the team has surged IT resources in support of VA’s vaccination distribution effort. To help ensure Veterans have real-time vaccine information, the team launched the ‘Keep Me Informed’ tool, which currently has 979,00 subscribers. The team also leveraged VEText to assist with VA’s vaccination distribution. Between December 2020 and March 2021 200,000 first, appointments were scheduled using direct scheduling.
Thanks to the OCTO customer experience COVID-19 scrum team’s leadership, VA continued to drive world-class customer service and seamless health care to Veterans during the pandemic.