A website that helps consumers find their health information online has been given a mixed review by a federal advisory task force charged with assessing the tool.

Launched in 2014 by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the Blue Button Connector is designed to enable consumers to determine which healthcare providers offer electronic access to their health records.

In addition, the online resource is also meant to help developers find out what type of electronic health data is being shared with people, so they can build apps that utilize the data to enable consumers to better understand and use their health information.

According to ONC, the Blue Button Connector is the first-ever open data source delivered through an open application programming interface (API) that makes transparent the health data that is increasingly available to the public, offering a free, read-only API to access the directory of organizations and apps that are featured on the site, as well as an updated list of hospitals and providers that have reached Stage 2 Meaningful Use under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.

“It has been moving at warp speed in terms of its evolution and value from where it first began,” said Donna Cryer, co-chair of the Health IT Policy and Standards committees’ Consumer Task Force. “The members of the task force felt that the Connector was very easy to navigate, and the design was commended many times across the membership.”

“Does this solve the problem for patients of having a one-stop shop to aggregate their data in a useful format?” asked Cryer, who is also president and CEO of the Global Liver Institute. “The honest answer is it’s not quite there yet.”

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Speaking this week at a joint meeting of the committees, she said there are significant ways the Blue Button Connector can be improved based on feedback from the task force, including:

• Members said they believe the website primarily targeted consumers rather than other audiences like developers.

• Members commented that the site needs to be clearer in explaining the Connector’s role in assessing data and setting expectations for users of the website.

• Some members believe the Connector could serve as a resource for education/health literacy and could provide more context on why it is important for consumers to get access to their electronic health information.

• Members noted that updates on the website are needed because some links and videos are outdated, while it is missing newly updated documents and resources.

Nonetheless, ONC makes the case that “the usefulness of this site will grow as the community contributes to it.”

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