The One VA Benefit that Could Save Your Life

If you get your healthcare from the VA, then you can use their electronic records system called ebenefits. Through ebenefits you can renew prescriptions, make appointments, email your providers, track various aspects of your health and even request copies of your military records. But you know the best thing you can do on ebenefits? You can read your own medical records! And I don’t mean the general sheet they give you after an appointment that tells you your vital statistics for that day, I’m talking the nitty gritty.

Most places act like your medical records are top secret information. Next time you’re at the doctor and the nurse is writing in your chart, just ask her if you can see it. I bet she won’t. They never leave them anywhere where you might get access to them. Honestly, I have no idea why. There can’t be anything in there we don’t know, right?

With ebenefits, you get it all. Let’s say you go to the doctor with stomach pain. Your doctor suspects a stomach ulcer and decides to do a CT scan of your abdomen. You have the procedure and wait for your follow up visit to get the results. Meanwhile, the Radiologist reads the test and sends the results to your doctor. Your doctor looks at the result and tells you, “No, you don’t have an ulcer”, or, “Yes, you do have an ulcer.” Then he proceeds to treat you for said ulcer. But did you know that the Radiologist’s report actually goes over every organ in your abdomen? With ebenefits you get to read the whole thing.

This is how the above example could have gone differently. Prior to your follow up visit to get the results, you got on ebenefits and read the Radiologist’s full report so you already knew that you did or didn’t have an ulcer. But as you’re reading about the other organs in your body, you get to the pancreas and you see the words “possible IPMN – verify with ultrasound.” If you’re like most of the population, you have no idea what this means, so you turn to Google and find that this means you may have a tumor on your pancreas that 70% of the time turns into aggressive pancreatic cancer. Now, when you go to be told about the ulcer you already know about, you could ask about this pancreas thing. Because, remember? The doctor never mentioned the pancreas thing. He just told you about the ulcer because that is the only part of the report he looked at.

In the real life version of this story, the patient had read their records prior to the follow up and did ask the doctor about the pancreas. The doctor looked at the rest of the report right there and also had to Google “IPMN” to find out what it was. Thankfully, that patient is now being seen by the gut doctors.

If you have access to your medical records, READ them! Thoroughly!


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