ONC chief urges vendors to go for Blue Button ASAP

Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national health IT coordinator, has challenged vendors to make it easy for consumers by early 2013 to view, download and transmit to another party their health information in the form of a Blue Button feature.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has established a Twitter hashtag of #VDTnow for companies and organizations to post their commitment to establishing the feature.

[See also: Blue Button sees 1 million patients sign on]

Implementing the functionality for view, download and transmit (VDT) to a third party, “I think, is underappreciated for how significant that’s going to be to the concept of consumer-mediated health information exchange,” Mostashari said at a Sept. 10 ONC summit on consumer health IT.

“It moves us from personal health records tethered to this particular provider’s or that particular health plan’s data source to the concept of a personally controlled health record,” he  said, adding that it will accelerate capabilities for Stage 2 meaningful use requirements in 2014 for patient engagement and health information exchange.

The summit was the first of several events observing Health IT Week in the Nation’s Capital.

[See also: ONC aims to put Blue Button on automatic]

Health IT companies, providers and healthcare organizations can offer patients access to and a copy of their electronic information through patient portals linked to their electronic health records, a Blue Button feature on their personal health record software or other applications on patients’ computers.

Blue Button was developed first for veterans to access their information through their HealtheVet personal record in a simple ASCII text file. More than 1 million veterans have downloaded their information, according to the Veterans Affairs Department. Military service members and Medicare beneficiaries also have Blue Button capability, and it is beginning to be deployed in the private sector.

Among the vendors who said they would have a Blue Button feature early next year by the time of the HIMSS 2013 annual conference in March were eClinicalWorks, Greenway Medical, SOAPware, athenahealth and Cerner. RelayHealth said it already has Blue Button available.

“Blue Button has evolved from veterans getting their own data, but is now a national concept ‘to give me my data’,” Mostashari said. Among the goals for ONC’s consumer health IT program is to nudge patients to access their data and take action with it.

One of the first veterans to participate in using Blue Button, Randy Watson, of Joplin, Mo., who has complex heart ailments and diabetes, said he did so because “it’s my right to have my record.”