Feds want Blue Button 2.0 initiative to spark data sharing in industry

The Trump administration is committed to unleashing technological innovation in the private sector to improve healthcare in America.

“We recognize the power of the private sector to drive innovation and to solve difficult problems,” said Chris Liddell, deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, at the Blue Button 2.0 Developer Conference held at the White House on Monday for health IT developers, featuring new apps that leverage Medicare data.

Blue Button 2.0, which utilizes HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard, is an application programming interface (API) that enables Medicare beneficiaries to share their claims data with third-party apps. In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the launch of the API as part of the MyHealthEData initiative, an effort to put patients in control of their own healthcare information.

“Initiatives such as Blue Button 2.0 represent a commitment to reimagine government as a facilitator and supporter of private-sector innovation,” said Liddell. “With the leadership of America’s tech community and individuals like developers in this room, patients will be able to connect their data to innovative digital products, gain insights into their own lives and make better decisions about their healthcare.”

To date, more than 600 developers have signed up to build apps using the API to access more than four years of Medicare Part A, B, and D data for 53 million Medicare beneficiaries.

Also See: More than 600 developers sign up for Blue Button 2.0

Administrator Seema Verma told the White House conference that, by 2026, one in every five dollars spent in the country will go to healthcare and that the “most powerful force” in the U.S. economy is the consumer.

“Our healthcare system is on an unsustainable path,” declared Verma. “This Administration wants to empower patients and empower consumers. I think that technology has the ability to help us in providing cost-effective care, and we want to lean into technology.”

The CMS chief said she envisions a future when “our healthcare record begins from the time of birth and collects all of our data throughout our lifetime—and not just the data that we’re getting from the medical record,” but also including information from wearables and claims data, all aggregated in one place.

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Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, speaks during a 'Conversations with the Women of America' event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. Republican leaders in Congress are angling for another short-term funding measure to avert a government shutdown at the end of this week while trying to keep a dispute over immigration separate from their attempts to get agreement on spending priorities. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

“We’re at the beginning of the digital health revolution where we now have the ability—with all of this data in a digital format—to take that information and unleash it,” added Verma. “Today’s conference is about Blue Button 2.0, where we’ve put all of the patient claims data for the regular, traditional fee-for-service program, and we’ve put that in an API format.”

She said CMS is “leading by example” and that the agency will be “calling on all insurers to do the same” and release their data in an API format.

“You’ll see through our regulatory process that we’re very serious about that,” Verma concluded. “We’re also going to talk to our hospitals about when patients leave the hospital what type of discharge data should be made available to the patient and to the other providers. And, we’ve also asked the question: for those providers participating in the Medicare program, should having interoperability—and providing patients their data—should that be a requirement to participate in the Medicare program?”

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