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My HealtheVet's 15th Anniversary

15th Anniversary of My HealtheVet

On Veterans Day we offer our thanks to those who served our nation and fought to protect us at home and abroad. And while our thanks cannot equal the sacrifices they made, we can seek to honor them in our memories and in our actions. To serve those who served us.

That is what the VA aspired to accomplish 15 years ago today with the launch of its online patient portal, My HealtheVet.

The website was created as a tool to help Veterans partner with their health care teams to make decisions and manage their health. Today it's easy to forget how pioneering and revolutionary My HealtheVet was in delivering Veteran medical records with the click of a mouse. But back in 2003, before digital technology became ingrained in nearly every aspect of our lives, a venture like My HealtheVet was a risk. Still, VA jumped at the opportunity.

This was not a flash-in-the-pan project. "We knew it wasn't going away," said Lauren Heiger, a My HealtheVet Coordinator who has helped promote My HealtheVet services since its inception. "We saw the potential right away."

My HealtheVet launched on Veterans Day 2003. The site's early offerings included a wealth of trusted health information, a comprehensive overview of VA benefits, and a health calendar. The ability to create a self-reported Personal Health Record (PHR) quickly followed. With the health record, Veterans could keep information like health insurance, medical events, labs, and immunizations all in one place.

In 2005, VA added what has become one of its flagship features: the ability to order prescription refills online. Within a year, more than one million prescriptions had been refilled using the feature. Improvements over the years have made the service even easier to use, and it remains the most used feature on the site.

My HealtheVet drew international attention in 2010 when it launched the VA Blue Button. The reporting feature allows patients to view, print or download specific parts of their personal health record into a simple text file or PDF, offering Veterans unparalleled access to their health records. The idea spread quickly to other patient portals in both the public and private sectors. It has become a standard across the United States. VA extended Blue Button functionality earlier this year with the release of the award-winning VA Medical Images and Reports feature that allows Veterans with a Premium account to view, download and share electronic copies of their radiology studies, such as X-rays, mammograms, MRI scans, and CT scans.

Another cornerstone feature, Secure Messaging, launched in 2008. Veterans could now exchange private messages with their providers and other members of their health care team. They could request appointments, prescription renewals, and even attach photos and other documents. Secure Messaging has become an indispensable tool for both patients and providers for its convenience and ability to extend care beyond the traditional office visit.

Through My HealtheVet, VA also became the largest health care system to give patients access to notes from appointments with all providers - doctors, therapists, counselors, and more. These 'VA Notes' ensure that patients can reference previous appointments and prepare for future appointments.

In 2017, My HealtheVet debuted its online scheduling tool, which allowed Veterans to schedule, modify, or cancel their appointments online. Veterans can also view appointment details, track the status of their requests, and set up VA appointment email notification reminders. Each new update is an attempt to improve access to care and respond to patient needs and feedback.

"The national team is just so good at hearing our Veterans and then prioritizing what features they can upgrade," said Heiger. "They are so good at honoring our Veterans."

Preparing Veteran patients for appointments and treatments is a goal of My HealtheVet. "I would say that a huge selling point for them is to have options," said Heiger, recalling the positive reaction from Veterans as they learn how to set their preferences and take advantage of tools like Secure Messaging.

"We want to empower our Veterans to become active participants in their care," said Theresa Hancock, Director of My HealtheVet. "The more resources and options they have available, the more they feel a partner in the process."

Today My HealtheVet has more than 4.5 million registered users, who have refilled over 127.7 million prescriptions, downloaded more than 31.8 million Blue Button reports, and exchanged more than 69.4 million Secure Messages with their VA health care teams.

"It's our mission. It's why we are here," said Heiger. "To tell our Veterans thank you for the successes of the program and to thank them for telling us what features and services they are looking for, and how we can be better. It's absolutely just an honor to serve."

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Created November 8, 2018