Blue Button Is Powerful Tool For Patients

Press Release | | November 8, 2012

Program can improve access to medical data

The Blue Button program is more than just a VA initiative – it is a new way of thinking, writes a blogger dedicated to sharing the patient story. Regina Holliday was introduced to the symbol two years ago and has worn it on her jacket ever since.

The Blue Button started with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Markle Foundation, but the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and CMS since have taken it up. Now, more than 1 million patients can access health data using the Blue Button, Holliday writes.

The program’s history goes back to 2009, when there was a drive to set up a workable health information exchange. The emphasis was to transfer data among clinicians and facilities, but little attention was paid to giving patients access to the information.

In 2010, measures were introduced that enabled patients to get electronic copies if they requested them. This helped open a path toward data liberation, Holliday writes. Changes have come quickly. Companies including Iatric Systems, McKesson, Relay Health and the Vermont Blueprint for Health have pledged to start using Blue Button.

That means patients can download data without having to pay 73 cents a page or wait 21 days. The information is in ASCII format, but the system is a big step forward for many people who need health records to complete paperwork or to improve the continuity of their medical care.

Patient information has been a valuable asset for companies. But Holliday argues that the push for data transparency and media sharing is encouraging companies to provide more open access. Patients want to be able to get their data and be assured that their privacy is respected.

Blue Button also offers possibilities for third-party applications. New businesses are entering the health-data sector, and the Blue Button program offers patients a way to benefit, Holliday says.

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