Sure the Internet had its roots with U.S. military researchers. But it’s not often that innovative ideas come from the government.
An exception to that in the healthcare industry appears to be the Blue Button program, and how the private sector is embracing it.
The federal Blue Button initiative was launched in 2010 to allow veterans to access their personal medical records by clicking a blue button from a website. Basically, vets can access and download health information from My HealtheVet personal health record into a text file or PDF that can be read, printed, or saved on any computer. The program does not need any special software.
And on Thursday, insurance giant UnitedHealthcare announced that the company is implementing the Blue Button program such that this year millions of its members would be able to access and download their personal health records by clicking a blue button. Many of UHC’s members could already access their health records through myuhc.com, but the addition of a blue button allows them to print in either text or PDF format.
The company announced that 12 million employer-sponsored plan participants will be able to access their personal health records by the end of the year. That number will more than double by mid-2013 when nearly all 26 million UnitedHealthcare enrollees will enjoy the same access to their PHR simply by clicking the Blue Button.
“Blue Button is a new, convenient way people can access their health records securely and easily with just a single click,’ said Karl Ulfers, vice president, Consumer Solutions, in a news release. “This technology encourages people to update their personal health records as well as print them, so they can take their records with them and discuss their health and treatments with their doctors.”
UnitedHealthcare is not the only private sector entity that is embracing the Blue Button. Sensing the opportunity to mine the Big Data contained in the Blue Button program, Humetrix, a San Diego company has launched the iBlueButton apps for physicians, consumers and vets.
The app enables data exchange with the patient at the point of care. Doctors can push data such as CT scans to their patients as well as visit summary. Essentially, it is a digital health information exchange platform that promotes easy access and interaction between patients and physicians. In fact, the apps for the physician and the provider can work on different form factors ’ the iPad and the iPhone ’ in real time and securely transfer data.
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