Blue Button begets Green Button

By Mary Mosquera
01:58 PM

The Veterans Affairs Department has started a movement with its Blue Button feature that enables customers to download their personal health data, with the lauch by the energy sector of the Green Button in California. 

Similar to its healthcare counterpart, the Green Button is an online tool that lets consumers download their energy data from their electric utility to their computer or other device. 

Blue Button enables veterans, Medicare beneficiaries and Tricare military members to download their personal health information in simple text from federal patient portals to a computer or personal health record to be viewed, stored, printed or shared.

“We’re seeing a simple idea giving people access to their data happening in other spaces,” said James Speros, special assistant to VA’s chief technology officer.

PG&E and San Diego Gas & Electric last week made the Green Button available on their websites.

The Green Button is available as part of the San Diego utility’s energy charts in its My Account web portal and shows customers detailed information on when they use electricity, how much and over a period of time.

The expectation is that access to this information will inspire innovative consumer applications and devices from entrepreneurs, businesses and students, said Ted Reguly, San Diego Gas & Electric’s director of customer programs and assistance.

“With customers in charge of how the information is used, we anticipate the data will be used in ways we haven’t even thought of yet,” he said.

Southern California Edison, Glendale Power & Light, Oncor, Pepco Holdings Inc., and several other utilities across the country also plan to make the feature available later this year. The Green Button is based on adoption of the Energy Service Provider Interface (ESPI) standard and other requirements, Reguly said.

Aneesh Chopra, White House chief technology officer, called the launch of the Green Button “the beginning of a new era of consumer control over energy use, and local empowerment to cut waste and save money.”

“With this information in hand, customers can take advantage of innovative energy apps to help them understand their energy usage and find ways to reduce electricity consumption and shrink bills, all while ensuring they retain privacy and security,” he explained in a Jan. 18 blog.

The Department of Energy took the Blue Button logo and colored it green, Speros said. 

"What that choice says is, the download my data logo has become recognized and what people look for when they want their data,” he said during a Jan. 17 webinar sponsored by HIMSS.

Blue Button is more than just getting health data to patients but also building stronger relationships between consumers and professionals with whom they do business. “It’s about downloading my data as a standard part of how business is done,” he said.

By the end of the year, the Department of Education and high school and higher education groups will offer the Purple Button, an online tool to download various categories of education information simply and securely, Speros said.