Blue Button gives consumers access to health info

More than 150 million now using the services

While the healthcare industry’s current data exchange efforts focus largely on allowing providers to communicate with one another, there are also significant benefits expected from making that data easily accessible to consumers. With that data, consumers are expected to make better proactive decisions about their health, possibly avoiding costly procedures and complications from chronic disease.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) launched the Blue Button initiative to give veterans the ability to access and download their health records on a secure, online patient portal. More than 150 million Americans are now able to use Blue Button-enabled tools to access their own health information, according to a press release from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

To further expand the program, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently released Blue Button+, a set of technical guidelines to help providers structure their data in standardized machine-readable formats. A number of pharmacies and organizations have committed to working toward standardizing patient prescription information. The goal is to fuel the growth of private-sector applications and services that can add value to basic health information, according to the release.