Government // Enterprise Architecture
News
9/25/2012
12:11 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Feds Want Wider Use Of Health Records Applet

'Blue Button' web applet that provides personal health records has been popular with U.S. veterans; White House now promoting use by private sector insurers.

IW500: 15 Top Government Tech Innovators
IW500: 15 Top Government Tech Innovators
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Millions more Americans soon will be able to download their personal health records by clicking on a simple "blue button" on the websites of their healthcare providers and insurance companies. The extent to which they do will be a gauge of consumer readiness for a Web application developed and first used by the federal government, an application that last month saw a milestone as its millionth user downloaded his health records using the technology.

The technology, called Blue Button, is a Web applet that enables the downloading of medical records as text or in PDF format--and soon, in machine-readable XML format--from backend databases. The Department of Veterans Affairs developed Blue Button and launched it in 2010 on the agency's My HealtheVet portal as a way of giving military veterans online access to their medical records.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Defense soon followed, and the White House and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT are promoting Blue Button as a technology that can provide access to medical records in the private sector. The White House's new Blue Button for America initiative recently brought in technology fellows as part of an effort to enable all Americans to download their own health records. Aetna, Humana, McKesson, United Health Care, and Walgreens are among the companies already pledging their support.

[ There's almost no end to the amount of useful medical information available online. To spy seven valuable resources, see 7 Health Education Tools For Patients. ]

The rapid uptake of Blue Button, with the one millionth user downloading her records last month, "shows you this country's latent need to access their own health data," said VA CTO Peter Levin, in an interview with InformationWeek. "If you have a parent, if you are a parent, or if you have a pulse you want to keep, you need access to health data, whether it's your child's immunization records or your parents' medications."

Just how far Blue Button can go in the private sector remains to be seen. According to a recent Deloitte survey, almost two-thirds of patients want their health records to be more easily accessible, and government programs to incentivize the meaningful use of electronic health records will soon have some requirements that patients be able to download and share health information. However, healthcare providers already make electronic records available to patients in a variety of formats, so Blue Button must compete with existing technologies. And issues around interoperability, privacy, and security remain.

Blue Button's supporters are forging ahead despite these concerns. The types of data available in a Blue Button file are expanding to include emergency room visits, in-patient stays, drug prescriptions, diagnoses, outpatient services, imaging, and lab results.

And Blue Button isn't a one-way street; patients can share data with their doctors and others in the healthcare chain. Aetna plans to let its members send data to their doctors through its website. And some doctor's offices can accept Blue Button data from iPhones, via Bluetooth connections to their office systems.

Companies such as United Health Care, with 34 million customers, represent a huge potential market for Blue Button's capabilities. The health insurance company began a Blue Button pilot project last year in Nevada and is now making the technology more widely available through its Web portal. "Blue Button is coming to represent not just a way to get records from the VA, but to represent the idea that all patients should be able to get their records," said United Healthcare's military and veteran services VP Chuck Officer.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
jaysimmons
50%
50%
jaysimmons,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/30/2012 | 5:46:52 AM
re: Feds Want Wider Use Of Health Records Applet
It's government initiatives like the blue button that truly help us move forward as an industry. It'd be fantastic if one day the blue button is as relevant as the facebook (the other blue) button. One can hope it would as seamless to integrate with also!
Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Nov. 10, 2014
Just 30% of respondents to our new survey say their companies are very or extremely effective at identifying critical data and analyzing it to make decisions, down from 42% in 2013. What gives?
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.