Are you tired of wondering what your crabby VA doctor says about you? Ever want to have greater input into your health care? Ever wish you could control your doctor like a puppet master?
Wish no further.
Meet My HealtheVet. A clever little tool created by VA at taxpayer expense to eradicate human interaction when providing health care services to veterans.
While created to save money on the backs of veterans needing real interaction with real human physicians, this nifty software platform can serve enterprising veterans with another purpose.
Veterans with access now have the means to micro-manage their VA physician or entire care team.
[Batteries not included.]
Yes, we know the existence of My HealtheVet is not new.
What is new is the concept of micro-managing your VA care team into compliance with your own personal vision of what health care you should be receiving – all from the comfort of your favorite couch cushion, La-Z-Boy, or VFW bar stool.
It’s new because I say it’s new, and no one else has written about using My HealtheVet to the advantage of the veteran.
For about 100 years, veterans have felt alienated, disregarded, and abused by VA personnel responsible for providing you with the health care you need.
Calls to the nurse hotline frequently go unanswered and the voice messages go unreturned – sometimes not listened to. Days or even weeks pass without the ball moving much.
Remember the wait list scandal starting with Phoenix VA?
How about the time the nurse mixed up your medications or the pharmacist shorted you out of pain killers? How about the time the nurse didn’t rotate you in bed causing bedsores?
Did they put notes into the system about the harm they caused?
Probably not, at least not the kind of notes that should have been entered.
Perhaps they wrote in that you refused the drugs or rejected offers to be rolled in bed. Or, better yet, they said you were noncompliant, or, heaven forbid, that you acted mean like someone with PTSD (because you have PTSD).
Before My HealtheVet, you would have no way to know the care team was badmouthing you in the system, at least not without a lengthy Privacy Act request.
You may not know a lot – or at least according to your doctor – but now you know about My HealtheVet. A way to turn that frown upside down.
Let’s talk tech and how it can help.
[If you are a VA provider reading this thinking, “I am very prompt and caring, so how dare you…” This article is obviously not talking about you. It’s talking about the other guy next to you.]
Your My HealtheVet Fix
For the first time in a century, veterans (with legal access) can sit back on the comfort of their couch to comb through every entry error and omission by VA physicians, nurses, and other personnel.
You can now get in front of that bad relationship with your provider. You can ensure proper documentation gets into the system before it’s too late.
Whether due to human indifference or heavy workloads, your bad relationship with your physician can be cured with direct access to the messaging portal available in My HealtheVet.
You no longer need to wait months and months to tell your doctor what you really think. You don’t need to wait 6 months for a copy of your VistA clinical file.
You can fire off a scathing, but professional, message outlining exactly what procedure was done or prescription not provided while sipping your favorite beverage (Pabst Blue Ribbon) watching YouTube.
Very few of the VA’s projects can be characterized as streamlining what requires a human touch. That is why VA paid billions in taxpayer dollars on IT fixes to diminish the need for humans with technology.
But that technology can be turned on its head to not only improve access to records and other resources.
It can help you micro-manage the healthcare you receive from VA providers
So, how much is My HealtheVet and how do I get access?
For veterans, it’s free. For taxpayers, it’s a few billion dollars.
My HealtheVet Three Tiered Portals
The My HealtheVet portal is a three-tiered free online portal, offering a lot of software tools to veterans who want or need to take more control over their health care.
Basic Access has no ID requirements. This means it is the easiest access point available.
It allows you to input information to your personal health journal, like blood sugar numbers, heart rate, information about medications or allergies.
This information storage was designed to help you track your medical conditions for your reference.
Advanced Access requires you to be a VA patient and a link between your DoD account and the portal. Advanced Access will give you access to certain elements of your DoD records. You can also use it to manage VA prescription refills and information.
Premium Access on My HealtheVet requires you to verify your VA/DoD records, social security number (SSN), gender, and date of birth (DOB). Yeah, it is quite a bit and seems redundant since VA already has this information about you.
Once this access level is attained, it opens online tools veterans may find very useful including the ability to download your records.
There is no cost other than your soul, and you will need to name your firstborn after the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Well worth the price of admission if you ask me.
Meet Premium My HealtheVet
Premium Access to My HealtheVet has a number of features that could radically alter your communication and micro-management expectations.
Obviously (hopefully), this does not apply to emergency issues. If you are experiencing an emergency, go right to the nearest emergency department.
Instead, it applies to situations less dire where a simple but consistent stream of messages can help address your situation. With its secure messaging features, non-emergent issues can be addressed by your primary care team and become permanent records in your clinical health record.
The response deadline is supposed to be 24-48 hours excluding holidays and weekends.
Again, if it’s an emergency, do not wait. Go right to your nearest emergency room. Be sure to let VA know right away that you had to go to the emergency room or have someone else do it for you (assuming you are conscious).
More My HealtheVet Perks
The perks don’t end with micro-managing other grown adults.
Many other aspects of your care can also be controlled through My HealtheVet.
You can manage prescriptions. You can make and change appointments. You can timely access much of your clinical health file. You can even reschedule appointments that were mysteriously canceled by the VA physician. What a win!
Do not submit to the typical veteran sentiment that your personal concerns can wait. Hell no. You paid your dues and it’s time to take what’s yours.
Take back some control. At least a little bit.
Your presidential vote may not count. Your spouse may hate your guts. Your belly may have grown so large you cannot see your toes. Cutting back on Twinkies won’t help.
But, by God, you can at least start to control who omits what from your health records.
And that’s not all.
You can even set an email alert to notify you of a response from your care team when you reach out with your secure message.
Secure Messaging allows you to:
- Ask non-urgent, non-emergency health related questions
- Update your VA health care team on your health condition
- Request VA referrals and medication renewals
- Manage your VA appointments
- Ask routine administrative questions
There is no limit to the hours you can spend thumbing through your redundant VA health records while sending little notes about typos and Privacy Act correction requests.
But, don’t forget, responses are only a Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm affair within three business days. And if it’s an emergency, do not wait around on your couch for a response. Go to the emergency room nearest you.
A Side Note My HealtheVet Prescription Refills
Refilling prescriptions online is great whenever they show up before you run out.
This was especially a problem during COVID, and not just because American has outsourced nearly 97 percent of our antibiotics and other drug manufacturing to China.
There have been some reported issues with this system, but My HealtheVet also has a tool to report prescription issues, and worst case, you can message your provider to address the issue.
The prescription tools in My HealtheVet also allow you to track shipments, and create prescription lists, if you also see a non-VA provider that has issues in communication with the VA.
Additionally, the health record tools within the portal allow you to track your healthcare records, make additions if necessary, or updates if you receive care outside the VA that you would like to coordinate with VA providers.
When you find errors, you can initiate a Privacy Act challenge to change or correct the offending record.
Beware, downloaded health records from My HealtheVet, may not be a complete representation of your file. Referred to as “VA Blue Button,” and much like online TRICARE tools with the VA Blue Button feature, you can:
- Customize and download a report (as a PDF or text file) to share with your VA and non-VA providers
- Print a report or summary to take a copy to your next appointment
- Send an electronic version of your self-entered information in Secure Message to your VA health care team
- Build your Personal Health Record (PHR) by self-entering your personal information or data that you have tracked
It’s also possible that your DoD treatment records can be linked, giving your VA treatment team the access for recently discharged veterans. Health records can be downloaded in XML or printed in PDF format, to more easily integrate with non-VA systems.
While VA doesn’t specifically endorse or provide any apps directly, there are even VA Blue Button smart phone applications that can be integrated (buyer beware with third party options).
Premium access gives anyone a front see to manage their own physician.
Never In Writing, Always In Cash
I swear, sometimes, I feel like some VA personnel intentionally dupe us into keeping a request verbal.
When the floor falls out on whatever issue you were trying to resolve, when the time comes to “prove it,” the conversation never happened. It will be your word against theirs, and you will lose.
Remember, if it’s not written down, it did not happen.
This is why tools like My HealtheVet are so great.
It can allow you direct access to your care team. It allows you direct access to at least some (but not all) of your health records. It gives you the power to put it in writing even after the appointment, just to be sure everyone is on the same page.
What an empowering tool, no?
Should your physician refuse a procedure but not write it down, you can send a note about it later that should be added to your records. If you need to appeal the refusal in a clinical appeal, health care appeal, or if it comes up in a malpractice matter, the request will be documented.
Final Words Of Advice
In case you did not figure it out yet, this post is somewhat satirical, like an unofficial infomercial on SNL.
We as veterans can never truly micro-manage any VA employee. It’s like herding cats. The odds of holding a bad VA employee accountable are low. Do not hold your breath.
But you can micro-manage your situation by doing everything in your power to advocate for yourself using My HealtheVet as a tool from your couch.
The system can help you leverage its features to help identify and change incorrect information in your records, document errors or omissions, and more proactively participate in the care you receive.
With great power comes great responsibility.
Given your newfound ability to actively participate in your health care, you need to remember, it is a crime to threaten or harass VA personnel. They are federal employees. They are humans.
Do not threaten or harass VA personnel, or anyone else for that matter.
Avoid swearing in your messages or making hostile or derogatory comments. Be consistent with messaging without spamming the system. Never send a message when you are mad. Write a first draft and then sleep on it.
What you type into a message you send will likely become a permanent part of your record.
A judge may need to look at it later, and you do not want to look like more of a controlling jerk than you may already be. A judge will look more kindly on a case where the veteran keeps their cool despite poor treatment from VA care staff and clinicians. A judge will not look kindly on a veteran who swears at VA personnel.
And yes, if you swear at VA personnel, it is possible to be charged with disorderly conduct if you make the comments on VA property. Many judges will find that 1st Amendment protections do not apply in that context.
If you take your frustrations too far, it is possible VA will complain and accuse you of being disruptive. This could place you before a Disruptive Behavior Committee to decide if you should be flagged.
If you get a red flag, you will enjoy a long future of very intimate and personal VA police escorts everywhere you go within VA including doctor appointments.
Be professional. Be consistent. Be nice even if it hurts.
When things get too hot to handle, reach out to a social worker, VSO, counselor, or hire an attorney.
If you feel VA personnel are abusing you in some way, and your attempts to address it have not worked, it may be time to seek health care from a third party.