Blue Button +

Blue Button +

The Blue Button is a simple concept. With the movement of patient health records becoming digital, how will patients access them? A clickable recognizable icon, a blue button, will give patients access to their records from doctors, insurers, pharmacies, laboratories, and other health care service providers. The access to health records is secure and downloadable for patient management of their personal health records.

The initiative and project is a collaborative of the Markel Foundation and several federal government agencies. It was first implemented by the Department of Veterans Affairs (5VA), the Department of Defense (5DOD), and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (5CMS). Through these services blue button is offered to hundreds of thousands of consumers. And now both public and private organizations are pledging to also offer blue button capabilities to their consumers.

Last month the VA expanded their Blue Button initiative and added new features and types of information. Several new types of information from the VA EHR are now available. These include active problems, progress notes, and discharge summaries to name a few. They also added a new tool to the VA Button which features the VA Continuity of Care Document (5VA CCD). The xml file formatted document contains a summary of the Veteran’s essential personal health information.

The ONC supports and champions the cause of adoption and use of Blue Button. It is working to support the technical evolution of its capabilities. There are two ways you can get involved in this initiative. You can take the blue button pledge or join the initiative to automate the blue button. Blue Button meets and builds on the view, download, and transmit requirements in Meaningful Use Stage 2 for certified EHR technology.

The ONC is now introducing Blue Button Plus after collaboration with public and private stakeholders and building off the Meaningful Use Stage 2 standards. They have also developed an implementation guidance for providers, payers, and developers to implement Blue Button Plus.

Blue Button is a simple concept: give patients’ access to their own data. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (5VA) first used the Blue Button logo on its patient portal in 2010 ,By clicking on the button, individuals could download their medical records in digital form.

Since then, millions of Veterans have logged onto the tool to download their personal health information, and many of the country’s largest data holders, including federal agencies such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (5CMS) and the Department of Defense (5DoD) and private health plans such as United HealthCare and Aetna, have embraced Blue Button as a way to make health care data readily available to their beneficiaries.

Recognizing the success and potential of the Blue Button, in 2012, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (5ONC) within the US Department of Health and Human Services took on the responsibility for taking it nationwide, in collaboration with the VA, the White House, and a host of other public and private sector leaders. Blue Button is an important component of engaging and empowering individuals and their families as partners in their health through information technology.


With this implementation guidance, we are evolving the standards associated with the Blue Button. Data holders (5such as providers and payors, and the vendors that serve them) and receivers (5such as providers of Personal Health Records (5PHRs) and other apps and services) that choose to follow this guidance will be known as providing “Blue Button+” or “Blue Button + Ready” to their users.

Blue Button+ supports the evolution of Blue Button because it sets the stage for an acceleration in the development of a new ecosystem of tools and apps based on a source of data –personal health data – that was until recently difficult to access but is becoming increasingly widely available. This Blue Button + guidance was developed though ONC’s Standards and Interoperability Framework initiative with input from more than 70 volunteer individuals and organizations.

Blue Button + is intended to catalyze the growing movement of consumer and patient engagement in health and health care via information technology or eHealth.

Blue Button+ gives users the ability to get records in a human-readable and machine-readable format; and to send them where they choose. This enables a consumer to do everything from printing a physical copy to sharing it with a third party application.

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