Health IT

A personal health record evolution from smart cards to iBlueButton apps

If you want some perspective of how electronic personal health records have evolved, Humetrix has some interesting insights on the subject. It started developing them in 1991 as smart cards but 22 years later it launched Android iBlueButton apps for Medicare and members of the military that can communicate across platforms at HIMSS13 last week. […]

If you want some perspective of how electronic personal health records have evolved, Humetrix has some interesting insights on the subject. It started developing them in 1991 as smart cards but 22 years later it launched Android iBlueButton apps for Medicare and members of the military that can communicate across platforms at HIMSS13 last week.

CEO Bettina Everton came to San Diego via France where she trained as a physician. The smart cards were designed to be portable. The vaccicards, developed in 1991, stored immunization records for children. They evolved into smart cards that stored mini datasets with information that included the patient’s active conditions, a complete drug list, significant encounters, hospitalizations, but with a whole 64kb of storage space they were limited by the amount of information they could hold. But because it was deployed at the point of care, it was a better fit for provider-facing solutions than consumers.

But with mobile phones so common these days and with an estimated 60 percent of physicians using mobile devices, the company’s personal health record app is designed to communicate with a physician facing app.

Humetrix’s iBlueButton apps are for veterans and consumers on Medicare. The dashboard includes a list of diagnoses, physician and hospital visits, procedures, tests ordered, imaging and providers with detailed contact information. Sections are color coded — with red and orange signifying information derived from claims data and green areas reflecting data entered by patients. It also keeps a log of when information is exchanged with a healthcare provider.

Everton estimates that 100,000 have downloaded the apps since they were launched in October for the iOS platform.

“The novelty now is that this type of  technology is much more ubiquitous than smart cards,” said Everton in an interview. “The patient is much more in control.”

The apps were developed as part of the iBlueButton initiative by the Depart of Veterans Affairs and CMS to help consumers keep track of their personal health information by enabling them access to it.  The latest addition launched at HIMSS last week is an Android version of the iBlueButton app for consumers and iBlueButton Professional. The professional version of the app can then attach the record to an electronic health record system.

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Four personal health record portals are supported by iBlueButton: MyMedicare, TRICARE Online, Aetna and RelayHealth.

The iBlueButton app  got a ringing endorsement from National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari earlier this year when he recounted using the app to share his father’s health record with another hospital in a medical emergency.

One of the biggest concerns with making patient information more transparent and mobile is data security. To help with that, Humetrix consumer and physician apps are password protected and encryption keys are embedded in the QR codes.  The password has to be re-entered if there is no action for five minutes.

The idea is that by making personal health records mobile, it will provide a more short term option for exchanging patient information as regions across the country grapple with the infrastructure complexities of setting up public and private exchanges. It also provides a useful option for consumers who find themselves needing to go to a hospital in another region from where they are based and improve outcomes.

Humetrix is also seeing some interest for its app from the NHS in the UK and is showing its apps at its NHS Innovation Expo this week.

[Featured photo The Jump Evolution from BigStock Photo]