Late Breaking News
Vendors Compete to Add EHRs, Provider Data Exchange to Blue Button Initiative
WASHINGTON — When VA went live with its Blue Button download format last year, the goal was to give veterans the ability to download their personal-health information directly from their MyHealtheVet account.
A new initiative announced this summer will expand that capability to private health-care records. The end goal, VA officials say, is for veterans to have easy access to any and all of their records online and for VA and private physicians to eventually be able to share veterans’ records with each other.
Downloading Health Data
The Blue Button system, developed in collaboration with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and DoD, became operational in VA as part of MyHealtheVet in August 2010 and went national this past October. MyHealtheVet allows veterans to enter their family history, test results, emergency contact information, personal-health indicators (blood pressure, weight, heart rate) and other data online. They also can refill prescriptions, view appointments and check laboratory results. The Blue Button feature allows veterans, without any special software, to access and download their information into a simple text file that can be read, printed or saved on any computer.
Since it went national in October, more than 300,000 veterans have downloaded their health data using Blue Button.
In June, VA announced that it is offering a $50,000 prize to the first team that builds a personal health record (PHR) using the Blue Button download format and arranges to install the PHR on the websites of 25,000 private physicians across America.
The rationale behind the competition for vendors is twofold, explained VA Chief Technology Officer Peter Levin. “This helps veterans directly, because many receive care from outside VA, and now they’ll have the ability to easily get their data from VA and from their private physician.”
The other reason is that, in the past, technology developed at VA has spread into the private sector and made a profound impact. This technology, VA believes, can be of great use to any patient or physician using it.
“We think that Blue Button is going to have an impact on meaningful use [of electronic health records], on patient access and a positive impact on the relationship between patients and providers,” Levin said.
Last year, Congress passed an initiative by President Obama to give federal agencies broad authority to conduct prize competitions as a way to foster innovation. This includes awarding prizes to private industry to help disseminate existing technology.
“We wanted to be able to spread to the private sector things like Blue Button that already exist and whose use can be demonstrated to directly benefit the government. And we’re paying for the outcome,” Levin said.