As health care costs alarm the nation and the debate increases about the impact of health information technologies, patients are reviewing their medical records increasingly through secure Internet portals. Important questions remain about the impact of portal use on office visits.
Historically, radiologists’ official written reports have functionally been proprietary communications between radiologists and referring providers. Although never secret, these reports have traditionally been archived in the medical record, with tightly controlled access. Patients rarely viewed reports directly. As patient-centered care, transparent communication, and electronic archiving have converged, however, radiologists’ reports, like many other medical record components, are increasingly accessible to patients via web-based “portals.” Many radiologists harbor justified anxiety about whether and how radiology reports should change in response to these portals.
The Blue Button feature of online patient portals promotes patient engagement by allowing patients to easily download their personal health information. This study examines the adoption and use of the Blue Button feature in the Department of Veterans Affairs’(VA) personal health record portal, My HealtheVet.
Materials and methods
An online survey presented to a 4% random sample of My HealtheVet users between March and May 2012. Questions were designed to determine characteristics associated with Blue Button use, perceived value of use, and how Veterans with non-VA providers use the Blue Button to share information with their non-VA providers.
These days, commentary about bankers, politicians, or school systems is almost invariably accompanied by a call for “increased transparency.” And it’s not different for us in medicine. Spurred by electronic technologies, black boxes are being torn open right and left, bringing disruptive changes to both doctors and patients. We applaud these changes and argue that attendant benefits will far outweigh risks. And whether you agree or not, it’s probably futile to try to interfere with an unstoppable progression.