Health plans, big tech firms to test Blue Button implementation guide

About a dozen health plans will join Apple, Google and Microsoft to test a new private sector implementation guide for Blue Button 2.0.

The announcement was made by the CARIN Alliance, which is leading the project.

CARIN announced its plans for testing its new Blue Button HL7 FHIR API data model and draft implementation guide at the recent White House Blue Button Developers Conference in Washington.

The health plans that will pilot the guide will include BlueCross BlueShield of Arkansas, the BlueCross BlueShield Association (BCBSA), BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Blue Shield of California, Regence BlueCross BlueShield, Florida Blue, Humana, Security Health Plan, Prominence Health Plan and UPMC Health Plan, CARIN says.

In addition to Apple, Google and Microsoft, other non-payer organizations joining the effort will include the states of North Carolina and Washington, b.well and MedEx, CARIN announced.

CARIN says it plans to test its guide in 2019 and will work to move the API into production in 2020.

Blumenthal6990.jpg

The CARIN Alliance—convened in 2016 by former national coordinators of health IT, David Blumenthal and David Brailer; former White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, and former Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt—works to advance the consumer-directed exchange of health information and comprises stakeholders from across the healthcare delivery system.

CARIN’s new guide has more than 240 claim data elements approved by multiple regional and national health plans. These data elements are included in what CARIN is calling the common payer consumer data set, or CPCDS.

BCBSA, a member of the CARIN Alliance, says it is committed to helping consumers and their authorized caregivers gain digital access to their health information via open APIs, including a commitment to the Code of Conduct, a privacy protection standard for how technology systems not covered by HIPAA, such as third party mobile apps, should handle people’s healthcare data.

BCBSA says it also backs CMS’s Blue Button 2.0 standards to enable patients to securely access their health information in Medicare Advantage programs in consumer applications, such as third-party mobile apps, using the HL7 FHIR API format.

In a Medicare Advantage Call letter issued last March, CMS said it is expanding the use of electronic health data for its Medicare Advantage enrollees. At that time, CMS launched Blue Button 2.0, which the agency says puts patients in charge of their own health data.

The Blue Button 2.0 project provides more than 53 million Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries with access to their electronic claims information, and CMS wants private health plans to follow their lead in sharing claims information with consumers, according to CARIN.

“The trend toward digital in healthcare is undeniable,” CARIN says. For example, more than 60 percent of technology users say that using health technologies has had a significant positive impact on their health behavior. Healthcare consumers have more than doubled in the last two years the rate at which they are emailing, texting or conducting video exchanges with their doctors.

“If we can unify now as a truly impactful health care alliance, we have a tremendous opportunity to direct, inform and shape the policies around consumer-directed healthcare information,” CARIN says. “This will enable the industry to align on the tenets of a framework in which we can innovate and empower substantially better health outcomes for a fraction of systemic cost that restricts potential solutions today.”

Find the CARIN Blue Button Framework and Common Payer Consumer Data Set here. The Blue Button 2.0 open source code is available for all health plans here.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.