Blue Button Awareness, Personal Health Record Usage Grows

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Awareness of the Blue Button Initiative—a public-private effort to provide patients with easy, secure online access to their health information—is slowly building, as is usage and adoption of personal health records among key industry stakeholders.

That is the finding of a new survey conducted by the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange, which included 274 respondents. Providers, health plans, vendors and clearinghouses were re-surveyed in late 2014 to determine Blue Button adoption compared to a similar 2013 WEDI survey.

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In a March 13 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, WEDI provided HHS with the results of its survey conducted from Oct. 31, 2014 to Dec. 8, 2014. Key findings include: 

*Relying on integrated electronic health record and medical device data to populate personal health records (PHRs) increased. 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.

*Ensuring awareness of Blue Button as an industry-wide tool remains an opportunity.

*Offering the PHR to all patients when implementing the technology continues to be significant. 80 percent of respondents offer the PHR to all patients/members as opposed to only making it available to select subsets.

*Enabling the patient/member to retain control over who has access to their PHR data through privacy controls continues to be important.

*Transmitting data to patients, providers or authorized third parties appears to occur through DIRECT secure messaging protocols. 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.

*Providing patients with a better overall experience continues to show traditional communication methods as top priorities.

In September 2014, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT launched a new toolkit for organizations that want to use Blue Button technology to help consumers get access to their digital health information. The Blue Button Toolkit included technical guidelines for organizations such as labs, pharmacies, immunization registries, and health information exchanges, as well as a portfolio of national standards. In particular, ONC added alternative technical approaches to the toolkit that supported consumer exchange of information and DIRECT protocols for the secure exchange of information.

The full WEDI survey results can be viewed here.

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