White House hosts developers conference on Blue Button 2.0

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The White House believes that the future of health care is in the hands of the consumer.

Leaders from the Office of American Innovation and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pledged Monday at a White House-hosted Blue Button 2.0 developers conference to continue empowering patients and the private sector by “unleashing” health care data to drive a revolution in the medical field.

“We’re at the beginning of what I call the digital health revolution, where we have all of this data that’s in a digital format within the doctor’s office and we have the ability to take that information and unleash it,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma, adding that her agency is “absolutely committed” to driving the interoperability of data.

The notion is not a new one — the principal idea of opening health care data to consumers was championed throughout President Barack Obama’s eight years in office. But the Trump administration officials breathed new life into it in March with the launch of Blue Button 2.0 — an open API tool built around Medicare claims data for developers to use to build third-party apps — and the MyHealthEData initiative, “which aims to empower patients by ensuring that they control their health care data and can decide how their data is going to be used, all while keeping that information safe and secure.”

“We recognize the power of the private sector to drive innovation and to solve difficult problems,” said Chris Liddell, White House deputy chief of staff for policy coordination and a former leader in the Office of American Innovation. “Initiatives such as Blue Button 2.0 represent a commitment to reimagined government as a facilitator and supporter of private sector innovation. By pairing government’s data and scale with the ideas and energy of the private sector, that’s the best way in our view to solve some of our nation’s toughest challenges and improve the lives of the American people.”

Liddell explained the work the Office of American Innovation has done since the beginning of the administration around opening health care data, boosting electronic health record interoperability and fighting information blocking in “a market that’s ready for disruption.” For instance, OAI last year hosted a series of listening sessions “with thought leaders and experts spending time understanding the problems that hospitals and patients were facing and finding ways to empower each of you to build solutions.”

Those were the genesis of Monday’s conference, in which developers and other health care experts gathered to showcase “innovative companies and real-world products built to the Blue Button 2.0 platform,” Liddell explained.

Since the launch of Blue Button 2.0, Verma explained, CMS has seen more than 600 developers “that are starting to look at our data” to build on top of the platform.

Verma told those in attendance she envisions “a future for health care and a future for all of us where our health care record begins from the time of earth and collects all of our data throughout our lifetime — and not just the data we’re getting from the medical record, but it could be wearable technology, it could be your claims data — and imagine all of that data aggregated in one place. Imagine if you could combine that with your genetic information, and that you would have the ability to take that information and give it to researchers, give it to your doctors … but what does that mean for the future of medicine as we’re already starting the advent of personal medicine? What does that mean for researchers that they could have all of this vast amount of data available that would fast forward cures and treatments?”

Monday’s conversation, she said, was structured around the question: What comes next?

“I think that when we think about the data that’s available, we’re already thinking about it in terms of ‘well, patients are going to want this data so that they can understand their health.’ And we know that providers are going to want this data so that they can be able to understand their patient profile. And we’re excited about the advances in artificial intelligence that’s going to be able to take all of this data and make it meaningful,” Verma said. “But I think today’s conversation is also about where do we go from here? We know the basics, but I think that the potential of what this data could mean for our country, for health care is really unimaginable.”

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Blue Button 2.0, Chris Liddell, CMS, electronic health records, health care, Seema Verma, White House Office of American Innovation
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