Contest Produces Consumer Friendly Health Records

Competition focused on improving look of downloaded health records, and Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT hopes EHR vendors will participate in followup project.

Ken Terry, Contributor

January 29, 2013

3 Min Read

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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has announced the winners of a contest to improve the graphic design of patient health records (PHRs). They were selected from a field of over 230 entries submitted during the past three months.

The purpose of the competition was to improve the appearance and usability of "Blue Button" downloads, which are plain text files containing personal health data from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense and Medicare, as well as private payers such as Aetna, United Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente. In addition, ONC said it hopes that electronic health record vendors will integrate the final design into their own products to facilitate Blue Button downloads of clinical data.

The best overall design came from a Chicago firm called gravitytank. Their Nightingale entry displayed medications and medical history in a way "that made it easier for a senior citizen to understand," said ONC's HealthIT Buzz Blog.

The second place winner, Studio TACK from Brooklyn, N.Y., focused on displaying medical problems and histories. In third place was Blue Button by Design. Created by a San Francisco group called Method, it was designed specifically for use on mobile devices.

There were three other, more specific contest categories. The first-place winning designs in those categories were M.ed, by Josh Hemsley of Orange County, Calif., for Best Medication Design; Grouping By Time, by Matthew Sanders of Brooklyn, for Best Problem/Medical History; and Health Summary, by HealthEd in Clark, N.J., for Best Lab Summaries.

Besides the winning entries, the reviewers also selected a set of entries that "challenged the status quo" and included those in ONC's online showcase.

Ryan Panchadsaram, a Presidential Innovation Fellow, commented on ONC's blog, "Three months ago, we challenged graphic designers to help us reimagine what the patient health record could look like. We hoped that by making a patient health record more usable, the record could help prevent medical errors, empower patients to make better health decisions, and even save lives."

The next step, he said, is for the ONC "curators" to select a final design that might include elements from multiple contest submissions. That design will "be built and open-sourced on the code-sharing site GitHub." There also will be a software developers kit called Bootstrap.

"With these tools, electronic health record software companies across the country will be able to integrate the final design into their products and contribute to the open-source project," said Panchadsaram.

ONC's partners in the competition included the California Healthcare Foundation, Designer Fund, Health 2.0, Luxr and Rock Health. Notably missing were EHR companies.

Last September, Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator of Health IT, asked EHR vendors to add Blue Button functionality to their products. Among those who said they would have such a feature in forthcoming releases are eClinicalWorks, Greenway, SOAPware, Athenahealth and Cerner. Greenway and Athenahealth already have launched their Blue Button products.

The other EHR with Blue Button capability is that of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which launched the project originally. The VA recently enhanced its Blue Button capability by allowing veterans to download clinical summaries in the Continuity of Care Document (CCD) format. Last fall, it added progress notes to the list of data elements accessible through the Blue Button.

"The VA enthusiastically supports the open-source development of the selected design because it may enable them to improve MyHealtheVet -- their patient portal," said Panchadsaram.

About the Author(s)

Ken Terry


Ken Terry is a freelance healthcare writer, specializing in health IT. A former technology editor of Medical Economics Magazine, he is also the author of the book Rx For Healthcare Reform.

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