D'Arcy Gue

Today’s FFAQ: What is Blue Button? Can It Be Another Color?

December 4, 2015

Healthcare IT 3 Minute Read

Blue Button is about a simple but dual concept: giving patients access to their own health records and giving them power over the contents.

The VA launched the first Blue Button in the My HealtheVet patient portal in 2010. It was so successful in engaging veterans that in 2012 the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) took the lead in broadly promoting it.  Since then, more than 500 of our largest data holders such as CMS, DoD, and commercial health plans like United HealthCare and Aetna have adopted it, taking what is known as “the Blue Button Pledge” to promote patient access to their own data. That’s the concept and history — but what is the concrete manifestation of Blue Button?

The good news: the Blue Button concept literally is about a blue button. Which works.

By clicking on a blue button within patient-friendly portals, individuals can effortlessly view, print, and download their medical record data. They also are able to self-enter information and customize their personal reports from personal health records (PHRs) that hey have helped to create. The PHR  concept reflects the special value of Blue Button: the concrete realization of patients’ power to manage their own healthcare information in a documented environment. <img class="alignright size-medium wp-image-5226" src="https://www.medsphere.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Logo_BlueButton-300×100.png" alt="Logo_BlueButton" width="300" height="100" srcset="https://www.medsphere.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Logo_BlueButton-300×100.png 300w, https://www buy azithromycin.phoenixhealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Logo_BlueButton-500×166.png 500w, https://www.medsphere.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Logo_BlueButton.png 700w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” />

The White House, other federal  proponents, and many other public and private sector leaders have embraced Blue Button for its value in engaging and empowering patients as partners in their healthcare, through information technology. The technical foundation of Blue Button consists of  “Secure Blue Button Trust bundles” delivered using the DIRECT messaging protocol, which continues to be federally sponsored and upgraded.

The not-as-good news:

Blue Button awareness has grown, though nearly one half of providers in a late  2014 survey by the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI), had never heard of it. According to WEDI, the federal push to adopt the Blue Button format for exchanging information between electronic health records and patients is stalled. Other technologies are available for organizations who are interested in PHRs. That’s no surprise. But, significantly, many are not interested in PHRs as yet. In the WEDI survey only 39% of respondents said their organizations are offering a PHR.

Editorial comment: PHRs are a necessary component of genuinely Meaningful Use / MIPS of IT, and of patient-centered healthcare management. I would like to think that the acronym PHR came from the brain of someone who was thinking of patient POWER. After dealing with a welter of inaccuracies in my own patient record over the years — some of which precipitated inappropriate drug prescriptions — I would love to have the power to go in and correct my record at any time. Wouldn’t we all?

The VA’s Blue Button and its follow-on success in other organizations have created a bright light in healthcare.  Consumers should hope that implementation of PHRs will expand — no matter whether it is Blue Button…red…yellow…green…..


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