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Kiosks Connect Veterans with Services
by Jo Schuda

What questions are in most veterans’ minds when they visit a VA medical facility? Don’t think too long - here are the answers:

    1. Am I eligible for care?
    2. What am I eligible for?
    3. How much will it cost?

Health Care Services Now, Benefit Programs Coming Soon

Right now, veterans visiting six VA medical facilities can get those questions answered, and much more information, at a kiosk in a lobby or clinic waiting room. Touch-screen displays tell them what health-care services they can receive and, coming soon - with the swipe of an identification card - what medical appointments they have scheduled.

In an effort to make these medical center kiosks One VA points of customer service, the Veterans Benefits Administration will soon add information on its benefits programs. Kiosk screens will offer veterans Web-enabled access to information about compensation and pension, home loans, education benefits and vocational rehabilitation programs.

Kiosks Are Customized to Local Community

Developed as part of a national health-care eligibility communications effort, the kiosks also give VA medical service networks local control of information provided to veterans, their family members and VA employees. When the kiosks connect to printers, for example, veterans are able to print maps of the VA hospitals that guide them to a specific destination.

For three months last spring, kiosks were tested in a pilot program at VA medical facilities in Dallas, Lexington, Ky., Orlando, Fla., Batavia, N.Y., and Baltimore. VA Health Administration Service (HAS) arranged to have kiosk users interviewed at three of the sites. About 80 percent thought the information offered was relevant and easy to understand. They asked for more information about their individual situations. The capability exists for medical centers to connect the kiosks to their local area computer networks to make individual records accessible through the use of a veteran’s identification card.

Since the test, the Topeka, Kan., VA Medical Center has installed a similar kiosk. The West Los Angeles and San Diego VA medical centers have installed kiosks with some different functions.

HAS makes kiosks available to VISNs for about $8,000 each, plus shipping and installation, loaded with standard content, including a description of the uniform package of health benefits available to veterans enrolled in the VA health-care system. Internal tracking allows medical centers to know what information is used most on the kiosks. I addition to touch-screen displays, a video narrator guides the user.

Kiosks Are Web-enabled

HAS Director Kent Simonis said since the machines are Web-enabled, standard information can be centrally updated. He said veterans like being able to access medical information on the Internet. Facilities receive a lot of centralized technical support, too. Diagnostic queries are made through the Web. If a malfunctioning printer is found, for example, a technical support specialist can call the site and have it fixed on the spot.

Facilities using the kiosks want to expand their capabilities. VA Pharmacy Service hopes to develop applications that will allow veterans to order prescription refills and receive medication literature on line through the kiosk. Eventually, veterans will be able to enroll in the veterans health-care system on-line at the kiosks.

The medical benefits information now in the kiosks is from VHA headquarters, based on inquiries veterans have made — nearly 500,000 since June 1998 — to a health-care eligibility toll-free phone center.

For More Information

Direct questions about the kiosks to Kent Simonis at 202-273-8398.

About the Author

Josephine Schuda, a member of the Federal Communicators Network, is a public affairs specialist, Office of Public Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs Central Office, Washington, DC. You may contact her at 202-273-5733 or