Almost everyone in the healthcare IT world, and beyond, has heard of Blue Button, a federal program designed for, initially, veterans, and now Medicare beneficiaries, to download their electronic health records (EHRs). But, now there's something new to add to that growing trend: the iBlueButton app.
Until now no one has succeeded in making a patient’s entire medical record – straight from their providers – available on a mobile device and under the patient’s control, according to Todd Stein, a spokesman for Humetrix, the designer of iBlue Button.
Thirty-seven million Medicare patients and millions of veterans can now use their iPhone or iPad to download their Blue Button medical record, Stein said.
National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) Farzad Mostashari recently praised iBlueButton at a meeting hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC. He shared a personal story about his use of the iPhone app that “opened my eyes,” he said.
Mostashari used iBlueButton to download his father’s full online Blue Button Medicare medical record when a medical emergency arose while his father was visiting him from out of town at Thanksgiving. Mostashari took his father to the doctor and shared the record on his iPhone, electronically, with the astonished doctor, who’d never seen anything like it. “This is patient engagement at its best," Mostashari said. "This is the future of healthcare.”
“I’m a doctor myself and when I first saw this, it was a real eye opener,” Mostashari told the gathering at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “I had first tried to download my father’s file from CMS’s Blue Button but it was everything I kind of feared – long, not pretty, it’s got all these codes that you don’t understand, the name of the provider is a number.” Then Mostashari downloaded iBlueButton to his iPhone and had an entirely different experience. “When I saw my Dad’s information it changed everything. Because for the first time, you hit the provider button, it brings back a list of all his doctors, and their phone numbers and their addresses. I never had that before," he added. "Now I can see his medications, diagnoses, ER visits, outpatient visits, procedures, images and labs.”
Humetrix, the Del Mar, Calif.-based healthcare IT company made a splash in the mHealth world last October, when its iBlueButton 3.6 consumer and physician apps won the federal government's Blue Button Mash Up Challenge.
Bettina Experton, Humetrix' president and CEO, says the iBlueButton platform "is not just a patient app or a physician app," but a mobile communications tool that links both sides of the healthcare equation and provides real-time access to vital medical records and resources. "iBlueButton is the mobile embodiment of Blue Button," she said.
An adjunct professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego and a serial entrepreneur, Experton helped create the French national health system’s EHR smart card and is a regular invitee at White House advisory panels on healthcare.
Experton says iBlueButton is gaining traction and will be available on Android later this month. Some commercial health plans, including Aetna, are already using BlueButton, and there will be more coming on board. She admits it would not be out of the question for iBlueButton to go entirely mainstream.
"United Healthcare will soon add BlueButton, as well as other plans, and we will add access to these additional Blue Button enabled portals to the iBlueButton app," Experton said.
The app translates "on the fly" Blue Button medical records into English and reformats them into a user-friendly record for patient and physician use, she said. It uses NPI codes in real time to create a provider contact list.
"With our app, it's not only about accessing your Blue Button record, but it's a means to share and transmit medical records at point of care. It's a view, download and transmit app controlled by the consumer," Experton said.