VA: More education needed on Blue Button initiative

Only one-third of veterans are taking advantage of "Blue Button" capabilities to access the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' personal health record portal, My HealtheVet, but those who do so are pleased with it, according to a study published recently in the Journal of the American Informatics Association.

The Blue Button initiative enables patients to secure online access to their electronic records. The researchers, from the VA Health system in Iowa City and elsewhere, presented an online survey to a 4 percent random sample of My HealtheVet users for two months in 2012 to determine the value of Blue Button use.

The survey revealed that just 33 percent of respondents to be current Blue Button users. The most highly endorsed benefit (73 percent) was that it helped patients understand their health history better because the information was located all in one place. 

Twenty percent of Blue Button users shared their VA information with their non-VA providers; of those 87 percent reported that the non-VA provider found the VA information somewhat or very helpful.

The strongest factor contributing to veterans' use and sharing of the technology was the individual's ability to use computer technology.

"Educational efforts are needed to raise awareness of the Blue Button and to address usability issues that hinder adoption," the researchers concluded.

The VA has been a pioneer in providing patients with access to their electronic records. Several non-VA health systems, such as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Geisinger Health System and Harborview Medical Center in Washington have also allowed patients to access their electronic records through a patient portal. It has been predicted that patient access to their e-records may become the standard of care.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract