ONC Celebrates Veterans Day and VA’s Commitment to Health IT Through Blue Button

Parmeeth M.S. Atwal | November 10, 2011

This Veterans Day, we honor our country’s military veterans and celebrate the one year anniversary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) “Blue Button,” an online tool that allows veterans to access, download, and manage their electronically-stored health data.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is committed to helping providers implement electronic health records (EHRs) to improve care, as well as helping consumers take an active role in their health through health IT.

We’d like to recognize the VA’s commitment to helping veterans become engaged in their care by enabling them to access their VA medical records through its Blue Button initiative.

About the Blue Button

The VA’s Blue Button, which is hosted on MyHealtheVet, a secure Web portal, enables veterans to easily download and share their electronic VA medical records with physicians or family members.  Veterans can also download medical appointment schedules, laboratory results and prescription history, as well as actively participate and manage their health and health care by updating their records online.

“We wanted to give Veterans and their families easy access to their health data with the Blue Button so they can have greater control over the health care they receive,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki in an October 25, 2011 press release.

Developed by the VA in collaboration with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), along with the Markle Foundation’s Consumer Engagement Workgroup, the VA’s Blue Button launched in October 2010.

In less than a year, more than 400,000 veterans and members of the military have downloaded their electronic VA medical records using the Blue Button tool.

Blue Button Commitment Initiative

In coordination with ONC’s Health IT Pledge Campaign—which encourages both data holders (e.g., providers, hospitals, payers, retail pharmacies) and non-data holders to empower individuals to be partners in their care through health IT—the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched the Blue Button commitment initiative Exit Disclaimer . This initiative invites individuals and organizations to commit to making it easier for veterans and other consumers to access their health care information using Blue Button.  In addition to the VA, CMS, DoD and numerous other data holders have made Blue Button available to patients or are in the process of doing so. Using Blue Button is one of the ways in which data holders can fulfill a key part of ONC’s Health IT Pledge Campaign.

ONC supports the VA’s efforts to encourage veterans to actively participate in their health care through the use of EHRs and the Blue Button, as these tools can help veterans communicate effectively with their providers and become engaged in their health care.

Veteran Mike Tibbets, who served in the combat infantry with the Marine Corps, understands the value of having his health information stored electronically in EHRs.

“The big thing is if you are traveling, you can go to another hospital and they can pull up your VA medical records on the computer immediately, especially if say you’re seriously injured, they can check what medications you are on and everything else, and that’s really helpful and convenient,” said Tibbets.

Mobile Apps to Engage Veterans in Their Health Care

The VA and DoD are also working with organizations on developing mobile applications that help veterans become engaged in their health care. For example, a mobile app was recently developed to give veterans the ability to access their VA medical records on their mobile devices. This app builds on the idea of creating a strong and effective partnership between patients and their health care providers.

Additionally, there are dozens of mobile applications that have been developed to help veterans manage mental health issues like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

As we celebrate Veterans Day, let’s recognize the value of the Blue Button and how it is helping the VA to empower veterans across the country to take an active role in their health care through the use of health IT.