Standards community explores Blue Button for access to health data


The Blue Button concept, developed by the Veterans Affairs Department to enable patients to download their health information to a computer or personal health record (PHR), may come into play in relation to how people gain access to data residing in their clinical records.

As revealed during last week's Government Health IT conference in Washington, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) is exploring how to use some of its standards and interoperability activities around Blue Button to tackle barriers to consumer engagement and access to data.

“Blue Button isn’t a standard. It’s really a campaign, a way for people to say that we want access to our data,” explained Doug Fridsma, MD, PhD, director of ONC’s Office of Standards and Interoperability and acting chief scientist. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) enables seniors to use Blue Button.

Fridsma said the Standards and Interoperability (S&I) Framework community was doing its “homework” on how to address some of these issues “by not creating huge cumbersome standards, but in fact creating the 'Goldilocks' version -- not too light, not too heavy -- that helps us provide the answer.”

He suggested, “What if we made it look like a Transitions of Care document, or made it possible to click a Blue Button and push the information to my PHR? What if it were possible to click on the CMS Blue Button and then subscribe to data feeds that came from there?”

One of the activities of the S&I Framework community is defining standard Transitions of Care content so that providers can electronically exchange core clinical information with other providers and patients to improve care coordination.

ONC wants to capitalize on the energy coming out of the recent Health Datapalooza conference, which highlighted innovative applications and uses of data, around how consumers can get access to their data “and then standardize it so that some of that access can be automated by having it go from machine to machine,” Fridsma said.

ONC also announced at the Datapalooza conference earlier this month a developers challenge to come up with an application to help individuals coordinate their health information with other data to give them a more complete picture of their health status and to make more informed decisions.

The Health eDecisions is the most recent initiative added to the S&I Framework community and aims to advance the sharing of clinical decision support interventions through standards or a web service.

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