VA has long been a pioneer in developing and using a comprehensive system of electronic health records. VA clinicians began using computerized patient records in the mid-1990s for everything from recording examinations by doctors to displaying the results of lab tests and x-rays.
Today, VA has one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated electronic systems for patient records in the world. The Department’s My HealtheVet website, located at www.myhealth.va.gov, is an extension of the electronic health record system. The site offers Veterans free, online access to their personal health record 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A VA Palo Alto Health Care System study published in the December 20, 2011 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, entitled “Patient Interest in Sharing Personal Health Record Information,” found that nearly 80 percent of VA patients responding to a My HealtheVet survey would like to share their electronic health information with family members, caregivers and outside providers.
“Patients were overwhelmingly interested in allowing their caregivers and health care providers to access their online health information and help them manage their health care,” says Donna Zulman, MD, Investigator for the Center for Health Care Evaluation at VAPAHCS, and lead author for the study.
From July 7, 2010 through October 4 of that year, more than 18,000 users of the My HealtheVet website completed a questionnaire on their preferences on sharing their personal electronic health information.
Nearly four of five respondents were interested in sharing access to their personal health records with someone besides themselves and their health care providers. (62 percent wanted to share their data with a spouse or partner, 22 percent with a child, 15 percent with another family member, and 25 percent with a non-VA health care provider). Among those who selected a family member other than a spouse or partner, 47 percent lived apart from the person they specified.
In general, Zulman says, “patients are particularly eager to involve caregivers in activities that help them with day-to-day health care activities, including renewing medications, managing appointments, and viewing medical test results.”
“Government agencies and others are making considerable efforts to use newer technologies—including Web-based platforms—to enhance communication among patients, their families, and their providers in order to enable all involved to make the best health care decisions possible,” Joel I. Kupersmith, MD, VA’s chief research and development officer, told the Stanford University School of Medicine. “This study shows that a majority of Veterans who use My HealtheVet are strongly behind these efforts.”
VA’s My HealtheVet website enables VA patients to participate in secure messaging with their primary health care team members, refill prescriptions online, store their emergency medical information, get VA wellness reminders, and view their scheduled appointments, laboratory results, and lists of allergies and medications to which they may have an adverse reaction. Veterans need to register and complete an in-person authentication process in order to access certain components of their personal health record.