It’s no secret that effective communication promotes a better health care experience. Fortunately, VA’s Connected Care virtual health technologies, such as Secure Messaging through My HealtheVet, make it easier for Veterans to communicate with their providers between appointments.
Before this technology, patient interactions with their providers were limited to scheduled appointment times. Thanks to Secure Messaging, providers can now engage with patients 24/7 in a secure, online environment while also minimizing “telephone tag.”
Many VA health providers find Secure Messaging a valuable resource for communicating with patients. Dr. Debra Bailey, director of Women’s Health at VA Western Colorado Health Care System, says she enjoys this tool for many of the same reasons patients do – it improves patient access to health care, increases provider efficiency and limits Veteran frustration.
“It’s an extension to build trust and answer questions readily,” said Dr. Bailey. “This tool is not meant to replace needed face-to-face visits, but it’s a wonderful tool to clarify visits, respond to questions after visits, follow up on lab tests or imaging and clarify consults.”
Secure Messaging can also decrease the time a patient spends trying to get answers over the phone.
Many Veterans describe a sense of collaboration with their providers and place greater trust in the relationship when using Secure Messaging. They can ask providers non-urgent and non-emergency health-related questions, request VA referrals and medication renewals, manage VA appointments and provide health condition updates to their health care team.
“The biggest thing is it’s convenient,” said Marine Corps Veteran Edward Joseph Wacker. “I requested an appointment, and they got right back to me.”
Not only does Wacker communicate with his health care team via Secure Messaging, he frequently uses the My HealtheVet site as a resource for his health care questions.
“I can get full lab reports if I want. I can request reports of the x-rays, which I think is very valuable for me,” Wacker said.
Improves the patient experience
In addition to improving the patient-provider relationship, Secure Messaging supports VA’s integrated team approach. Physicians are kept in the loop with their patients and can triage or contact other specialists, nurses, telehealth technicians or social workers with patient concerns.
Secure Messaging makes it possible for providers to “Own the Moment” even through the COVID-19 pandemic by enabling them to connect with their patients in these challenging times while simultaneously providing excellent care and patient experiences.
Providers can deliver care to patients where and when they need it, fulfilling the guiding principle to “Understand and Respond to Needs.” By feeling more connected to their providers, patients often report higher satisfaction levels and increased involvement in self-managing their conditions. This suggests Secure Messaging is a mechanism providers can use to strengthen patient engagement and improve the patient experience.
Providers can also receive workload credit for documenting clinical decision-making for online evaluations of non-urgent clinical issues through Secure Messaging.
Secure Messaging has become a critical component in how providers practice medicine – it enhances communication, saves time and facilitates health care delivery.
Now is the time
Best of all, Veterans love the program because it’s patient-driven.
When asked what he thinks about the program, Wacker responded, “It’s amazing!”
By embracing virtual health technology, such as My HealtheVet, VA health care teams expand Veteran access to care, improve their care experience and empower them to take charge of their health and wellness.
Wacker has a message for other providers not yet using this feature: “Take the time to learn it, because it’s very useful.”
Secure Messaging has enabled providers to deliver the best care anytime, anywhere.
To learn more about My HealtheVet’s Secure Messaging feature, visit https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/web/myhealthevet/secure-messaging-spotlight.