Blue Button gains powerful allies

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Several of the largest pharmacy chains in the United States on Feb. 7 pledged their support for the Blue Button initiative, a way for Americans to access their electronic health data.

Additionally, a number of pharmacy companies and associations have committed to work over the next year to standardize prescription information to facilitate the creation of private sector applications using the data, according to a release by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Blue Button has been in use since 2010 when the Department of Veterans Affairs released the program. It allowed veterans to download their health records. The initiative has now expanded to more than 150 million Americans.

The program will let patients access their prescription history, check medication history for accuracy, share information with health care providers and access prescription lists from multiple doctors.

“At its most important level, we are empowering patients to be part of their health care solutions,” Adam Dole, a presidential innovation fellow working on Blue Button, told FedScoop. “What happens as a result of this empowerment is an increase in patient self-efficacy.”

Americans should expect to see a much more rapid adoption of Blue Button over the next 18 months, according to Dole.

The Department of Health and Human Services recently released Blue Button+, a collaboration with more than 70 organizations, as a guideline to help providers structure their data in standardized machine-readable formats.

Hospitals and doctors will be using the standards as part of the Meaningful Use federal incentive, a financial incentive to improve patient care.

The pharmacies backing Blue Button will not receive an incentive, according to Dole.

“[The companies] understand the importance of empowering their own customer base; they are providing flexibility for customers who are going to be demanding data,” Dole said.

Blue Button will not be holding the information provided to patients. The data still resides in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-covered agencies. Pharmacies must use the proper security and authentication measures when delivering the data to patients, according to Dole.

HHS also issued a rule allowing labs to provide patients direct access to their test results upon request.

Here are the pharmacies and associations working on Blue Button for the next year:

  • Walgreens
  • Kroger
  • Rite Aid
  • Safeway
  • CVS Caremark
  • National Association of Chain Drug Stores
  • Pharmacy Health IT Collaborative
  • National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations

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adam dole, Blue Button, Government IT News, Health apps, Health data, Health IT, Tech, White House
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