How Restyling The Mundane Medical Record Could Improve Health Care

Joseph Flaherty | Wired | January 18, 2013

The results of a contest sponsored by the White House shows how powerful a dose of design can be in treating what ails our medical system. Electronic medical records (EMR) are extremely useful tools and can help improve patient care and reduce costs — if designed and used properly. Unfortunately, good design is hard to come by in this market. Health IT data standards, privacy laws, and impenetrable health systems complicate an already challenging design process and usually lead to lackluster products.

One of the glaring problems is that it can be difficult for patients to gain access to their medical records. In an effort to combat this problem, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) developed a program called "Blue Button," a feature of VA EMRs that allows patients to download their results.

The program has been a huge success since its launch in August of 2010, with over 500,000 patients in the VA system using the service. The Blue Button functionality has since rolled out to Medicare patients and even private insurers like United Healthcare are in the process of implementing it...