“The Blue Button is Literally a Life Saver”

Hans Petersen | September 24, 2014

Doug and Cheryl Van Syckle, both retired Veterans, are big fans of VA’s popular online Personal Health Record, My HealtheVet.

One of the greatest features of the program is the VA Blue Button.

Photos of Doug and Cheryl Van Syckle, both retired Veterans

Cheryl and Doug tell Vets, “Man, you have to use it.”

At a recent Vietnam Veterans of America conference, Cheryl told other Veterans, “I use the My HealtheVet Blue Button on a regular basis to download all new medical records to keep my home medical records updated.”

“I also use those records at my military treatment facility to coordinate my medical care with my non-VA doctor. This helps to eliminate duplications for testing and medications. Also eliminates any misunderstanding from my VA doctor to my non-VA doctor.”

Thousands of Veterans are now using My HealtheVet.

Each month, there are about half a million users logging in and more than 300,000 Veterans refilling their prescriptions using the handy online service.

About 5,000 new Veterans start using the popular and convenient VA Blue Button feature to download their health records each week.

Just as impressive is the fact that nearly 600,000 Veterans are using the component of the program called Secure Messaging to communicate electronically with their health care teams.

The Van Syckles use the Secure Messaging feature on a regular basis. Doug notes that “It’s easier to get in touch with your doctor or nurse with Secure Messaging than it is with the phone. I send a message and she calls right back. It’s always been quick.”

As Cheryl points out, “For me and my husband, the Blue Button is literally a life saver when it comes to medications and lab tests.”

We use it all the time. It’s our tool to go to.

Veterans can use the Blue Button to view, print, download and save information. You can share that information with your doctor, family members, your caregiver or anyone you trust.

It’s easy. It’s free and it was designed by Veterans for Veterans.

Cheryl adds 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.”

Its online suite of tools, including Secure Messaging, VA Prescription Refill, My Goals, VA Notes, and VA Blue Button, enables Veterans and their health care providers, clinicians and staff to be more connected to VA health care information, anywhere, anytime — outside of a clinical face to face encounter.

Both agree that the prescriptions feature of My HealtheVet is great. “When we get our medications, we always go on My HealtheVet that same day and order our next refill so it automatically orders our next refill. That way you don’t forget to refill and go without your medication.”

Doug has a few different old uniforms in his closet, having served first in the Army and then later in the Navy as a criminal investigator. “I’m an Army brat. I was raised here in the San Antonio area and I’m still here.” Cheryl, a native of Niagara Falls, enlisted in the Army in 1974 and served as a meteorologist at several locations.

Both are disabled but that has not slowed them down or kept them from attending a lot of minor league sports activities in the area. Three kids and two grandchildren also keep them busy.

Doug has been using My HealtheVet almost from the beginning of the program. “I have watched it grow, watched the Blue Button come in and it’s been great.”

Hundreds of younger Veterans, those coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, who do everything online, are signing up for My HealtheVet and using it every day. But it’s not just younger Veterans using it.

Vietnam and older Veterans are also finding it the most efficient way to keep track of all their health and medical information. And you don’t have to be a VA patient to use it.

VA encourages Veterans to use the features of the program as an ongoing tool to help them take charge of their health. The real value of a personal health record is using it on a regular basis as a constant reminder of those important things that all Veterans need to keep monitoring.

A conversation with Doug and Cheryl seems like a chat with one person. Accustomed to taking care of each other, they echo their comments when describing their satisfaction with My HealtheVet.

Would they recommend it? Cheryl: “Definitely.” Doug: “Most definitely. Whenever I’m with any group where there are Veterans, I talk about My HealtheVet all the time. One Vet just yesterday asked me, ‘Is it really that good?’ and I said, ‘man, you have to use it.'”

Cheryl points out that, “I use it to coordinate our care and keep track of our appointments. Veterans using it for the first time just need to become familiar with everything on the page. It’s very user friendly. Learn to use those buttons on the top and read everything first. Then you’ll have a lot of information right there at your finger-tips. We use it all the time. It’s our tool to go to.”

This blog post is also available at http://www.va.gov/health/newsfeatures/2014/September/The-Blue-Button-Is-Literally-A-Life-Saver.asp.