VA’s Patient Portal Fails To Reach Some High-Priority Vets, Study Says

December 15, 2014 in News

The Veterans Health Administration is missing opportunities to use its online patient portal to reach veterans with medical conditions that require more intensive care, according to a study published Friday in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Health Data Management reports (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 12/15).

Study Details

For the study, researchers analyzed data on more than six million veterans nationwide with at least one inpatient visit or two outpatient visits between April 2010 and March 2012 (Shimada et al, JMIR, 12/12). Specifically, they compared the use and adoption of VA’s My HealtheVet patient portal in April 2012 among 18 conditions on the VA’s high-priority list, such as:

  • Alcohol or drug misuse;
  • Depression;
  • Diabetes;
  • HIV;
  • Schizophrenia
  • Spinal cord injury; and
  • Traumatic brain injury.

Study Findings

Overall, the study showed:

  • 18.64% of veterans had registered for the online portal;
  • 11.06% had used the portal to refill prescriptions; and
  • 1.91% had used the portal’s secure messaging to communicate with clinical providers.

The researchers identified variation in veterans’ use and adoption of the online portal across diagnoses. For example:

  • Registration rates ranged from 29.19% among those with traumatic brain injury to 14.18% among those with schizophrenia;
  • Veterans with HIV, hyperlipidemia and spinal cord injury were most likely to use the online portal; and
  • Veterans with alcohol or drug misuse, schizophrenia and stroke were least likely to use it.

The researchers attributed the variation in the program’s reach to differences in My HealtheVet adoption among facilities, as well as demographic differences among patients.

The researchers wrote that while adoption overall was low, some groups — such as younger veterans with mental illness — could be “more ready for and receptive to targeted interventions delivered through a [personal health record].” They added, “Understanding the level of adoption and the types of use among patients with the most prevalent clinical conditions can help with prioritizing the development of eHealth tools with the potential to improve self-management and further engage a given patient subgroup” (Health Data Management, 12/15).

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