UnitedHealthcare launches Blue Button capability

By Mike Miliard
11:08 AM

Taking a cue from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, UnitedHealthcare has launched its own Blue Button program, enabling its plan participants to access and print their personal health records (PHRs) with the click of a mouse.

The Department of Veterans Affairs launched the Blue Button in 2010 to allow simple exchange of a patient’s personal health data in a standard, consistent format. Initially designed for use by veterans, the idea has begun to find footholds in the private sector.

“Blue Button puts patients in charge of their personal health information. It is central to our vision of patient-centered clinical encounters,” said Peter L. Levin, chief technology officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs. “The federal Blue Button initiative is a great example of public-private partnerships and open government. With Blue Button, the government created a framework that offers patients private and secure access to their data, and is a model for the private sector.”

[See also: Mostashari urges Blue Button-big data mashup.]

For years, nearly 20 million people who log on to UnitedHealthcare’s health and wellness site (myuhc.com) have had access to a PHR. But officials say the addition of Blue Button to the site will make that access easier, promoting the importance of a PHR and offering users the ability to print their records in either PDF or text formats.

UnitedHealthcare members can view, print and download information such as claims data, health screenings and self-entry. An individual’s PHR will include critical health information such as previous or current health conditions, vital signs and procedures, and personal information that allow easy sharing of important information.

UnitedHealthcare’s support of the Blue Button initiative first began in September 2011, and in March 2012 the Blue Button went live on one website for 500,000 people enrolled in Health Plan of Nevada benefit plans. As the firm expands the use of the technology, more than 12 million employer-sponsored plan participants will have access by the end of the year, and by mid-2013 nearly all 26 million UnitedHealthcare enrollees will be able to access their PHR with the click of the Blue Button, UnitedHealthcare officials say.

[See also: The VA's hot Blue Button.]

“Blue Button is a new, convenient way people can access their health records securely and easily with just a single click,” said Karl Ulfers, vice president, Consumer Solutions at UnitedHealthcare. “This technology encourages people to update their personal health records as well as print them, so they can take their records with them and discuss their health and treatments with their doctors.”

About a half of million veterans and Medicare members, including nonveterans, have already downloaded their records using the Blue Button interface, according to Veterans Affairs CIO Roger Baker.

“By the end of 2012, we think as many as 75 million people will have access to their medical information through Blue Button,” said Baker. “We’re getting a lot of adoption by private-sector organizations.”

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