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October 2015 marked the 5th Anniversary of the VA Blue Button. Since 2010, VA's Blue Button feature has helped Veterans access and share health information, and to communicate with their health care teams both inside and outside of VA. With VA Blue Button, you can view, print and download information from the My HealtheVet Personal Health Record Portal. You can access your personal health information when you need to, and share it with others involved in your care (family members, caregivers, or VA and non-VA providers).
When the VA Blue Button began, Veterans could mostly download information that they entered into the system themselves. Now, you can see many more kinds of information that your doctor and other health care team members enter into your VA health record. These include notes from your doctors, VA lab results, recent and future appointments, VA immunization records, hospital admissions and discharge summaries, and much more. In a VA blog post from 2012, Dr. Kim Nazi, of VA's Veterans and Consumers Health Informatics Office, recalls how the Blue Button was created: "The Blue Button idea crystallized during an exciting discussion at the Markle Consumer Engagement Workgroup meeting in New York City in January 2010. One of the unique strengths of this group was the diversity of experiences and perspectives gathered around the table. A passionate discussion about how to engage consumers in more meaningful ways filled the room with energy. Many ideas and viewpoints were exchanged".
"A single thread of conversation grew until it became a chorus of voices centered upon a single notion: give patients direct access to their data. Place a big button on existing portals where that data exists. Add a big "Blue Button" and empower consumers to have easy access to their data, and to share that information as they choose, with those whom they trust." Less than a year later, the Blue Button became available to Veterans (on My HealtheVet), to active Service members and their families (on TriCareOnline), and to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services beneficiaries (on My Medicare.gov).
Today, more than one million people use the VA Blue Button. While VA manages Blue Button for Veterans, Health and Human Services (HHS) now oversees the national Blue Button Initiative. Blue Button is also available outside of VA through a variety of government agencies, other health care organizations in the private sector, and most leading health insurance companies. In the future, VA is planning closer partnerships with other organizations that use Blue Button. VA is also testing a secure way for you to transmit your health information.
Blue Button connects you to your health care. With it, you can share records with doctors and caregivers, see your medical history while traveling or in an emergency, easily track your health data and feel more in control of your health.
But don't let us do all the talking; hear it straight from Veterans:
One Veteran couple has experience with using the VA Blue Button to help manage their own health care. Army Veteran Cheryl Van Syckle noted that, "I keep my medical labs that I print out from my Blue Button always with me so that in case of an emergency, they would have all my information. It can be life saver."
In the video above, hosted on Youtube, Vietnam Veteran Randy Watson describes how he has been in the hospital many times because of multiple heart attacks and has had trouble getting his medical records. Blue Button makes it easy. "You can click it to download your allergies, the drugs, the prescriptions you take, what doctors you see, take it to your primary care physician or specialist or the emergency room, instead of having to lay there and answer questions you can tell them 'Here it is. It's all here in black and white. It's in order.'"
When another United States Army Veteran, Michelle Strah, asked for her medical records, she was sent home with two suitcases full of papers. "In 2009, I had to see a civilian provider after I had some emergency complications from a surgery I'd had in the Army. Because I didn't have Blue Button at the time, the provider wasn't able to treat me since they didn't have all of my medical history."
Craig Luigart, a Navy Veteran and now the Chief Health Technology Officer for the Veterans Health Administration, has a rare disease known as Primary Lateral Sclerosis. Before Blue Button, Craig had to make paper copies of his lab tests and carry them between four different neurologists' offices. Once, he fell and cut his head when getting up from his wheelchair. He says, "...instead of me trying to recite the 15 meds, how often I took them, and what I took them for, I was able to take my iPad out, pull my Blue Button data up and actually hand that to the nurse and the physician. They were able to look at the drug interactions and choose the right, safe med for me."
The VA Blue Button has had a successful first five years, and we look forward to the next five. Join us in saying Happy Anniversary, Blue Button!