Blue Button Providing Patients with Health Data

November 5, 2010

Have you heard of the blue button? The new government initiative aimed at providing patients with easier access to their healthcare information recently launched and could expand. The idea is that a patient can click on the blue-button icon on their patient portal Web sites, and download their health information into a text file.

Have you heard of the blue button? The new government initiative aimed at providing patients with easier access to their healthcare information recently launched and could expand. 

The idea is that a patient can click on the blue-button icon on their patient portal Web sites, and download their health information into a text file. So far, the VA and CMS have developed versions of the program for their customers logging onto MyHealth.va.gov and MyMedicare.gov, according to American Medical News. By early last month, more than 60,000 veterans and more than 5,600 Medicare beneficiaries use the blue button.

“Having ready access to personal health information from Medicare claims can help beneficiaries understand their medical history and partner more effectively with providers,” according to the White House.

The White House also selected software developer Adobe as the winner of a challenge to create applications that helped convert the blue button data to a user-friendly system. Adobe’s Blue Button Health Assistant provides a “familiar user layout and eases linkage of consumer information among patients, providers, and caregivers.”

The program will surely be a little harder to implement in physician practices, considering most don’t have the capability with their EHRs or Web sites. But, the program could help satisfy part of the HER meaningful use criteria that require patients receive electronic access to their medical records upon request, American Medical News notes.

According to Markle Foundation study released in October, 65 percent of doctors and 70 percent of the public agree with the blue button concept. Yet, few patients ever request electronic copies of their health information, likely because they are used to having to submit a formal request and pay for copies of their records. Downloading their data has never been an option, but come become one. Supporters of the blue button program say it will help raise awareness about engaging in their care through health IT.

It’s not entirely clear what that could mean for private practices. But as more seek to implement patient portals to satisfy the meaningful use requirement, a one-click health information download could become part of the offerings.