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New tool enhances veterans access to their VA health care

Veterans who receive primary care services through the St. Cloud VA Health Care System can now take advantage of a new way to communicate with their VA health care teams that is as fast as e-mail and also safe and secure.

The new communication tool, called "Secure Messaging," allows veterans to send and receive messages with their primary care team. Internet access is required to use the system.

"Secure Messaging is a great communication tool for anything except urgent communication," said Brian Vetter, My HealtheVet coordinator for St. Cloud.

"It is meant for routine communication, like questions about appointments, prescriptions or other non-urgent health care matters," Vetter said. "We've also expanded Secure Messaging to other care areas; these include rheumatology, oncology, hematology, optometry, audiology, nutrition and mental health. Even more care areas will be added in the future."

According to Vetter, Secure Messaging helps veterans avoid long hold times on the telephone or missed phone calls from their health care team.

To take advantage of Secure Messaging, veterans first need to create an account on My HealtheVet ( ), making sure to check VA patient when they register. Next, complete the in-person authentication form.

"Veterans can complete the form at home and drop it off during their next visit or they can complete the form at any primary care clinic at the St. Cloud VA or any of our community-based outpatient clinics," Vetter said.

After the form is completed, it will take a few days for the veteran to be authenticated. Veterans can tell their account has been authenticated if they can view their VA appointments and VA lab results on My HealtheVet - these are some of the site's enhanced features available to Veterans who complete the authentication process.

Once the authentication is completed, vets should login to their My HealtheVet account, click on Secure Messaging and read the terms and conditions and then select the Opt-in button at the bottom left of the page and click "Submit."

For more information about Secure Messaging and the many features of My HealtheVet, contact Brian Vetter at (320) 255-6480, extension 7335.