Mostashari urges Blue Button-big data

By Mary Mosquera
08:46 AM

Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national health IT coordinator, announced a Blue Button Mash-Up challenge that will have a “different flavor” by bringing big data together for the individual.

The winning application will be designed to help individuals combine their health information with other data to better understand their own health status and make more informed decisions about their care. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT wants to educate consumers and offer tools that help them access and use their own health information. 

“We’re saying bring the Blue Button data that you download from your healthcare provider and mash it up with community data, administrative data to help manage my healthcare finances, and mash it up with my device data from home,” Mostashari said at the June 5 Health Datapalooza conference.

[See also: Datapalooza spotlights public, private hunger for health innovation.]

“That means it’s got to have volume, velocity for how quickly changes happen in real-time and variety,” he added.

The challenge builds on the Blue Button feature, developed by the Veterans Affairs Department, which enables patients to download their health information in a simple ASCII text format to their computers or personal health records to share with providers, families or caregivers.

To date, more than 900,000 veterans, members of the military and seniors on Medicare have downloaded their health information using the Blue Button feature. The Office of Personnel Management has requested that federal employees’ health plans also offer Blue Button. A few private healthcare organizations, such as UnitedHealth and Aetna, are beginning to incorporate it.

ONC will award $75,000 in prize money for the winning apps, which are to be submitted by Sept. 5.

Accessing data needs to be more usable and easier for patients and providers, “so it’s not even that you have to click a button to download the data, but you can set it and forget it, like an RSS feed,” Mostashari said.

“Blue Button is really the concept that people should be able to get access to their own records. We hope that Blue Button fever is going to be catching in the nation,” Mostashari said.

Blue Button started with basic, low barrier to entry, text format, but it can also be a consolidated continuity of care document (CCD) in structured data, he said.

Meaningful use includes engaging with a patient in a meaningful way, and a certified electronic health record (EHR) can make it possible for any patient to view, download or transmit their records in structured format, and start being able to not only read it but do things with it, he said.

In another competition, Aneesh Chopra, former White House chief technology officer, said that the Advisory Board Company, where he has returned as a senior advisor, will sponsor a challenge with its membership of healthcare providers to advance patient engagement using Blue Button.

In addition to a $25,000 grand prize, the company is offering five semi-finalists a $5,000 contribution with the ability to deploy their patient engagement Blue Button solution in the field in community by community.

“The determination of who wins this particular challenge will be whether or not the hospital or health system has engaged effectively through the tool to ensure that patients actually have participated,” Chopra said.

To do that, developers will have to figure out solutions to questions, such as what it will take for patients to want to voluntarily share their Blue Button data back with their provider or hospital; how will providers feel asking patients if they’re willing to share; and what will the customer experience be like.

The specific criterion for the contest will be called the community uptake score, which will focus on the greatest amount of participation and encouraging Blue Button users and institutional feedback, he said.Applications are due Aug. 6, with placement in communities by Sept. 3. The winner will be announced Oct. 12.