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PolitiFact: 'VA Blue Button' gives vets only some of their records

The statement

"Veterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of the mouse."

President Barack Obama, in State of the Union address

The ruling

In October, the administration formally launched something called the "VA Blue Button," which allows veterans to download and view some medical information online. Primarily, it allows veterans to access self-entered health metrics such as blood pressure, weight and heart rate as well as emergency contact information, test results, family health history, military health history and other health-related information. Using data from the patient's Veterans Health Administration's Electronic Health Records (VistA), it also allows vets to access information about their VA prescription histories, wellness reminders and VA appointments.

But veterans still can't yet get medical records such as doctors' notes or X-rays.

"The things they can download today are generally the kinds of things you'd fill in on a clipboard when you go to see a specialist," said Peter Levin, chief technology officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs and co-creator of the Blue Button.

In March, the VA plans to add information on allergies, he said. And soon, the Blue Button will offer access to lab results, including chemistry and hematology. "We are on a steady path, capturing more and more information from VistA and putting it into MyHealthyVet," Levin said.

And vets' requests will drive the information that will be added in the future, he said.

Joe Davis, a spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, praised the VA's Blue Button as a "unique" feature that puts the VA out front on technology.

But when Obama said, "Veterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of the mouse," was he accurate?

"Yes, kinda, sorta," Davis said. "They can download a part. 'Some' would have been more accurate. It all depends on your interpretation."

One could reasonably assume Obama meant veterans could access all of their medical records online. In fact, most of the information now available is information they self-entered. Veterans can't yet get a lot of medical records through the Blue Button. So we rate Obama's statement Barely True.

This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version — and to read other rulings — go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: 'VA Blue Button' gives vets only some of their records 02/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 9:42pm]
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