VA Fever Screening Purchases Endanger Veterans' Lives

By Donald Maye, Published Nov 09, 2020, 12:01pm EST

The US Department of Veterans Affairs has spent millions of dollars on a hodgepodge of 12 different fever screening systems, including many 'tablets' which have significant accuracy risks, an IPVM investigation has found.

Considering the large quantity of temperature screening tablets purchased, including 166 Meridian tablets IPVM has already exposed, coupled with the vulnerable population they are intended to serve, the lives of Veterans are at risk.

IPVM analyzed Federal records, verifying VA purchase orders of at least 12 different models of temperature screening devices, totaling $4.5 million. Many of the devices procured, in particular, the hundreds of fever tablets/kiosks, have serious risks in design and implementation.

Worse, IPVM tried for a month to inform and warn the VA of these risks yet has not received any material response.

Thermal Screening Device Purchases

IPVM discovered 12 different thermal screening systems sold to the VA:

IPVM Image

Alarmingly, there was no apparent standardization to the purchase of these medical devices by the VA. Quality ranges from FDA 510(K) cleared at the high-end to low-cost, unreliable tablets using thermopile sensors that, as IPVM’s independent testing demonstrates, have far inferior resolution to world febrile screening standards.

In total, $4.5 million in purchase orders were identified in federal records, with 12 separate vendors awarded contracts, as shown below:

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

IPVM Image

No Response From VA

IPVM requested comment from both VA Press Secretary, Christina Noel, and Chief of Staff of the Office of IT Program Integration, Susan Perez, several times over the past month, and we have received no response. If the VA responds, we will update.

Meridian Tablets Sold To Pennsylvania VA

IPVM identified a solicitation awarded to Document Strategies for 166 Meridian Tablets, which a VA contracting officer confirmed. IPVM testing of the Meridian tablet shows it routinely misses elevated temperatures. Furthermore, Meridian is deceptive, claiming they are not medical devices and obscuring the product is made in China. These tablets are to be used across the Pennsylvania VA system:

IPVM Image

The seller of these tablets, Document Strategies, has no background or experience selling thermal devices or medical devices to the federal government. The Georgia-based company bills itself as:

IPVM Image

Indeed, previous contracts awarded to Documents Strategies include copy machine rentals and computer services. Document Strategies did not respond to IPVM's request for comment.

Low Resolution Tablets Reliability Problems

IPVM testing has shown that low-cost fever tablets frequently miss elevated skin temperatures and are less accurate than marketed (1, 2, 3).

Furthermore, routinely-missed elevated temperatures undermine secondary screenings, as employees or patients screened by low-resolution tablets will not be accurately flagged in the first place.

IPVM Image

Fever Screening Device Substitution On Award

In one purchase, the VA substituted one tablet for another that the VA determined was an 'equivalent product'. The solicitation awarded to Document Strategies for Meridian originally specified Goodview tablets or “equivalent product”:

This contract will include procurement of the Goodview Dynamic Detection Display Temperature Scanner Kiosk with Facial Recognition and Floor Stand with Square Base or an equivalent product for all VISN 4 facilities.

Both of these products (Goodview and Meridian) were rushed out this year, have no FDA approval, and have no scientific or laboratory approval that we could find. Treating medical devices like commodity widget purchases increases the risk to the VA.

No Expertise in Thermal Devices

In addition to Meridian, three other tablets were sold to the VA, including, INSIZE, Turing, and Aurora Tauri Series, which VA contracting officers confirmed to IPVM.

Like Documents Strategies, the sellers of these systems displayed no expertise or background in this technology prior to their VA contracts. This is reinforced by their own marketing:

Explicit Disregard For FDA Guidelines

In the solicitation awarded to Turtle Creek Construction for 48 Aurora Tauri Series tablets, the VA contradicts FDA guidelines, alleging temperature screening devices are not used for medical purposes and, hence, do not require FDA approval. The FDA disagrees - they consider these medical devices.

IPVM Image

Aurora Multimedia CEO Responds

We contacted the sellers of tablets, only Turtle Creek responded, by way of their supplier Aurora Multimedia. CEO Paul Harris acknowledged general industry problems ("Many of the companies rebranding sell online to any and everyone which hurts the industry") but emphasized that his company's product is accurate. We have not tested Aurora Multimedia. Aurora Multimedia's CEO's in-depth comments are shared here.

VA Inspector General Touts Fever Cameras

In July, the VA Inspector General issued a review on their pandemic response. The report touts the use of thermal cameras for screening patients and staff. However, even in this report, the IG indicates they are not following FDA guidelines, as screening individuals "as they entered" a building increases the likelihood of incorrect readings due to temperature variations.

IPVM Image

This demonstrates a fundamental disconnect in the government over the limitations of existing temperature screening technologies at the highest levels of the VA.

Veterans' Lives Endangered, Sellers Profit

According to the VA's own data, over 80,000 individuals in the VA network have contracted COVID; more than 4,000 have died. As America’s largest integrated healthcare system serving 9 million veterans, with medical experts across every major specialty, the VA can and should do better for those in its care.

As IPVM has reported throughout 2020, this fits an ongoing trend of considerable amounts of money being spent on devices that may not help public safety. Deceptive sellers continue to profit selling a false sense of security to unwitting buyers.

Donald Maye is a former active duty U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer and 2007 graduate of the United States Military Academy.

2 reports cite this report:

FDA Issues 13 Warning Letters For Multi-Person Fever Screening Violations on Mar 04, 2021
The US FDA has sent warning letters to four [update: now thirteen] thermal...
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Responds To IPVM Investigation on Nov 13, 2020
Veterans Affairs Secretary, Robert Wilkie, caused more concern about the VA’s...

Comments (9)

Only IPVM Members may comment. Login or Join.

Twelve?!?

Oh my... If we only knew how bad things really are.

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful: 1
Funny: 1

Update: The following addition was made to this report:

Fever Screening Device Substitution On Award

In one purchase, the VA substituted one tablet for another that the VA determined was an 'equivalent product'. The solicitation awarded to Document Strategies for Meridian originally specified Goodview tablets or “equivalent product”:

This contract will include procurement of the Goodview Dynamic Detection Display Temperature Scanner Kiosk with Facial Recognition and Floor Stand with Square Base or an equivalent product for all VISN 4 facilities.

Both of these products (Goodview and Meridian) were rushed out this year, have no FDA approval, and have no scientific or laboratory approval that we could find. Treating medical devices like commodity widget purchases increases the risk to the VA.

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

Don't feel special there in the US. The lies, mistruths & general incompetence about thermal cameras extends to here in Australia as well.

Below is from a mid sized private hospital here in Australia, at least they do have a black body so only 4 out of 5 failures.

a/ looking at outside

b/ no acclimitisation

c/ no TGA Class IIa approval

d/ no / inadequate staff training, sun glasses stay on, hats stay on, long hair covers forehead etc

IPVM Image

Agree
Disagree
Informative: 1
Unhelpful
Funny
Agree
Disagree
Informative: 4
Unhelpful
Funny

From the article: "In an interview with Military Times on Monday, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said that he has not reviewed the report but is not worried about the potential threat to veterans and hospital staff.

“Remember, we have redundancy in the system,” he said. "We not only have temperature checks, but we ask a series of questions. We do multiple screenings before anybody enters into a facility."

Obviously my first concern is with the health and safety of the VA's patients but the Secretary's comments also show a disregard for how public funds are being spent if his response is basically "it's okay if we bought stuff that doesn't work because we bought and are doing other things as well"

I wish my customers had the money to just buy multiple systems and hope that one of them works! But then again, not really because we actually consult with our customers and try not to let them waste money, especially on systems that have been publicly reported to not work.

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

The CEO of Marriott has somewhat the same view. Hygiene Theater is what it boils down to + the new solution philosophy of "Swiss Cheese". Yes, there are holes but if you layer enough slices eventually there will be no holes.

As far as the VA goes they are desperate for positive PR. Not unlike in their upcoming RFP for Vet check-in where they will surely tout the mobile app as proof of their advancing technology. Of course, the veterans who are basically quadriplegics thanks to amputation/IUDs in their wheelchairs will encounter the usual accessibility problems.

Maybe I am being too harsh but personally, I am tired of seeing the backyard barbeque beer deals going down that seem to be the majority and fundamentally just siphon off/redirect major dollars to single-source preselects.

Agree: 1
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

A message to the author, can we post this news in our social media portals? This is a lot of waste in tax money and also potential risk of lives.

Agree: 2
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny

Yes- feel free to post. This report is open to the public.

Agree
Disagree
Informative: 1
Unhelpful
Funny

I see it every day in the federal space (VA, FEMA, DHS). I have also had reports that Dahua facial recognition algorithms (and servers) are being used at source level by some of these Chinese tablets. If those are in a medical environment then the situation only worsens due to HIPAA violations which can easily be $10M. Aside -- are the Tauri tablets in the "test queue"?

The irony is many people decrying the facial recog/surveillance that China utilizes on its own people, are the same people purchasing that technology for use in the U.S.

I will certainly post and I have press release going out this week which will let me communicate your article to that audience.

Thanks for the due diligence

Craig with KioskIndustry

Agree
Disagree
Informative
Unhelpful
Funny
Loading Related Reports