Blue Button, PHRs gaining traction

By Mike Miliard
11:04 AM
'Usage and adoption of personal health records continues to grow'
Consumer with smartphone and laptop

The healthcare industry is becoming more enlightened about the benefits of the Blue Button Initiative, and adoption of personal health records continues to grow, according to a new report from the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange.

WEDI conducted its first survey on Blue Button's use for exporting patient healthcare records in 2013; as a follow-up, it conducted another poll of stakeholders – including providers, payers, vendors and clearinghouses – in late 2014.

In a letter this week to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, WEDI offered the following takeaways from the report.

  • Electronic health record and medical device data is flowing into PHRs. "While provider respondents remained relatively consistent in their use of integrated EHRs, a significant increase occurred for government respondents from 60 percent in 2013 to 100 percent in 2014. Both of these groups saw medical device data increase, with government respondents going from zero in 2013 to 25 percent in 2014. The shift for provider respondents is likely reflective of greater participation in Meaningful Use incentive programs. "
  • Use of Blue Button still has room to grow. "The overall shift of awareness appears to have decreased, but upon further review of responses by respondent type, we found greater participation by behavioral and allied health providers in 2014. We believe the provider respondent increase of no awareness from 32 percent in 2013 to 49 percent in 2014 is impacted by the increase of more provider respondent types in 2014 that are ineligible for meaningful use incentives."
  • Offering PHRs to all patients, not just certain populations, is key. "Respondents are at varying stages in terms of PHR implementation, some have implemented, others are implementing this year and others are still in the planning stages. What remains constant is the high percentage (80 percent in 2014) of respondents that are offering the PHR to all patients/members as opposed to only making it available to select subsets of their patients/members."
  • Consumer control over access to PHR data is critical. "As the industry sees greater consumer engagement in their healthcare, privacy and security of patient/member data is of the utmost importance. No functionality was removed; rather there were shifts in which functionalities are more prominent. For example, health plan respondents from 2013 to 2014 showed a decrease in opt-out capability (50 to 22 percent) and an increase in opt-in capability (69 to 89 percent)."
  • DIRECT is finding favor as a means of data exchange. "Health plan and provider respondents both showed an increase in use of DIRECT for transmitting data, while government and technology developer respondents showed a decrease in use of DIRECT. All respondent groups showed a decrease in use of DIRECT with Secure Blue Button Trust with an overall decrease from 15 percent in 2013 to 8 percent in 2014."
  • Better patient experience demands better communication methods. "In 2014, the top three priorities for respondents continue to be email, text messages and direct mail. However, more organizations are recognizing the importance of providing mobile services, sending data to third party apps and services and allowing data to be downloaded in multiple formats."

"It is clear through our findings that usage and adoption of personal health records continues to grow among industry stakeholders and awareness of Blue Button+ is slowly building," said WEDI President and CEO Devin Jopp, in a statement.

"Our intention is to work closely in support with HHS to help further educate the industry on the usage of the Blue Button Implementation Guide in order to improve adoption of a standardized approach to exporting personal health records."