Health IT Background Information

Blue Button Pledge

The Blue Button Pledge Program is a voluntary tool for supporting individuals’ access to their health data. The Blue Button icon, used by a number of organizations, signals that consumers can download their health data at the website that displays this icon. Clicking the Blue Button icon provides a way for patients to view and download digital health records or insurance claims.

History: First deployed within the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010, Blue Button is now used by the Department of Defense; Medicare; and numerous private health insurance providers including Aetna, United Healthcare, and other participants in the Federal Health Employee Benefits program. At the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than one million people have already used Blue Button to download their health data. The Blue Button Pledge Program now includes more than 450 organizations that are committed to learning and collaborating in efforts to increase patient access to, and use of, health data.

The Pledge Program, launched in 2011, includes “data holders”—such as health care providers and insurers—who pledge to make health data accessible, and “non–data holders”—such as software developers and consumer advocacy organizations— who pledge to educate individuals about the value of getting and using their health data. For example, two organizations—the Alliance for Nursing Informatics and the American Nurses Association—teamed up in 2012 to host “Ask for Your Record Week,” a campaign to encourage nurses to adopt personal health records for themselves and to equip them to talk with patients about their own experiences using e-health.

Future of Blue Button: ONC, the White House, and the Department of Veterans Affairs are working together to encourage technology developers to build tools that enable individuals to use Blue Button health data, and to grow a new market for these applications. Through the Automate Blue Button Initiative, ONC is providing a forum for open collaboration with more than sixty-eight organizations— ranging from Microsoft, GE, and other large corporations to smaller start-ups such as Humetrix and Kinergy—to establish common industry approaches and standards for automatically updated health data, supplied in both machine- and human-readable formats.

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Txt4health is a pilot a text-messaging tool that consumers can use to assess their individual risk of diabetes and guide them in obtaining follow-up care. This program was a result of the Office of the National Coordinator has providing funding to seventeen so-called Beacon communities around the country that are working to increase the use of health information technology to achieve specific population health goals and to evaluate those efforts.

(From the second issue post: Txt4health, for example, is a mobile health information service that helps users understand their risk for type 2 diabetes and live healthy lives by sending them SMS messages each week with timely, relevant information that will help them improve and manage their health.)

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Sharecare is an interactive website where visitors can ask health-related questions that are answered by healthcare professionals. Topics include illnesses, fitness, and health insurance. ONC is a featured expert partner for Sharecare. As a featured expert, ONC provides answers to visitors’ questions about health IT. Through Sharecare, ONC can see the types of questions and concerns visitors have about health IT.

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