In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the VA is leveraging technology to ensure proper care of Veterans while implementing heightened safety precautions.
One way Veterans are maintaining access to care is through My HealtheVet, a web-based portal where Veterans can schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, view their health records and send secure messages to providers and health care teams. Before COVID-19, Veterans could choose to complete these tasks in-person, but now, through My HealtheVet, they are discovering that they can still maintain communication with their health care team online in a safe, but still closely monitored way.
My HealtheVet is not new to VA. The portal launched on Veterans Day 2003, and in 2005 began to facilitate prescription refills. The secure messaging feature was added in 2008. However, with a greater reliance on virtual health care during COVID-19, My HealtheVet is seeing a dramatic increase in access.
Nationally, VA has seen a spike in Veterans creating My HealtheVet accounts. Secure Messaging through My HealtheVet has become a primary line of communication between Veterans and providers during the COVID-19 outbreak. In March 2020, there was a 38% increase over February in secure messages sent and received, and there were more than two million prescription refill requests submitted.
“This rings true here at Charleston VAMC,” said Heather Friesen, Ralph H. Johnson VAMC My HealtheVet Coordinator. “More patients and more providers are using My HealtheVet and Secure Messaging now, and in new ways too.”
Between February and March 2020, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center saw a 21.7% increase in Veteran users sending messages through My HealtheVet, translating to an increase of 31.9% in secure messages sent from Veterans to their providers. That trend has continued, with Charleston VAMC maintaining a higher number of Veteran users and messages exchanged through My HealtheVet than pre-COVID.
“One of the great things that has happened is that everyone is working together to get Veterans the access they need online,” said Friesen. “More providers are encouraging Veterans to use My HealtheVet than they were before.”
Friesen also noted that providers are verifying Veteran identity through video appointments to help upgrade accounts to premium. The premium account is still a free service, but requires a secure, two-part identity verification process to open access to the full features of My HealtheVet, giving Veterans even more access to online tools to facilitate their health care requests.
“Veterans that may have been skeptical to access these tools online are realizing that one of the great benefits to the system is convenience,” said Friesen. “What we hope happens is that these Veteran users stay active in My HealtheVet after the COVID restrictions are lifted. The ease of online messages or refill requests can help expedite their care while improving their overall experience.”
If you don’t have a My HealtheVet account yet, you can create an account at myhealth.va.gov by selecting “Register” in the top right. Check out the new user registration guide on the My HealtheVet website if you need help.