The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is trying to do for the public what the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) did for veterans by building on the VA’s popular “Blue Button” application, allowing patients to get their medical records electronically on their mobile devices.
The “Blue Button” mashup challenge will be designed to bring “health information to the masses,” said Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national health information technology coordinator. It will allow anyone whose doctor keeps computerized records to get those records on mobile devices like phones, tablets and laptops.
Currently, U.S. veterans can push the “Blue Button” on their mobile devices, using an application that the VA developed, and get access to their health records. The “Blue Button” application began as a simple way to view personal health data but has become widely heralded for helping patients have access to their medical histories.
The application allows veterans to see a VA doctor who is outside their regular medical circle – such as when they are on vacation – and bring all their up-to-date information with them.
Right now, the application only works for the VA. In addition, some insurance companies, notably United Health Care and Aetna, as well as Medicare, allow only medical insurance records to be accessed remotely.
But this new initiative by HHS, originally announced June 5, is aimed at allowing everyone, including those on Medicare and Medicaid, to access their health data, as long as their physician uses online records. It would also allow them eventually to coordinate their medical and insurance records and also connect that data with information about pharmacies, doctors, and other medical providers.
It would also call on doctors to have medical records online and remotely accessible, as many do already through web portals.
“The goal of the mashup is to come up with an application that creates a tool where your doctor’s health record on you will connect with your claims data,” said Peter Ashkenaz, spokesman for the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT.
The winning application will be designed to help individuals combine their health information with other data to better understand their own health status and make more informed decisions about their care, HHS said in a news release.
Further the department said, the challenge requires the development of a mobile tool that will help individuals to “use their health information, combined with other types of information, such as cost data or comparative health data, to better understand their own health status and make more informed decisions regarding their health care.”
The deadline for applications is Sept. 5 and the department hopes to announce the winners at the Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, Oct. 7-11, 2012. The a total of $75,000 in prizes will be awarded to the three top rated apps.
The challenge is the latest in the government’s move toward mobile applications becoming a routine part of record-keeping and services on the go. It takes mobility a step farther, however, in incorporating existing data (medical records) with available services (providers).
HHS said that to date more than 900,000 veterans, members of the military and seniors on Medicare have downloaded some health information using the “Blue Button” feature. For seniors, that only includes Medicare claim information.
Accessing data needs to be more usable and easier for patients and providers, “so it’s not even that you have to click a button to download the data, but you can set it and forget it, like an RSS feed,” Mostashari said.
“Blue Button is really the concept that people should be able to get access to their own records. We hope that Blue Button fever is going to be catching in the nation,” Mostashari said.
HHS officials are holding a webinar Aug. 15 to explain how to enter the contest. Click here for more information.