Announcing the New Blue Button Toolkit
Maya Uppaluru and Erin Siminerio, M.P.H. | September 15, 2014
A Single Source for Technical Standards & Guidelines to Support Patient Access to Their Health Data
Blue Button is for every person, provider, and community interested in improving care and health through information access and use. As part of the Blue Button Initiative, we are launching the Blue Button Toolkit.
The toolkit is designed for organizations that want to use Blue Button technology to help consumers get access to their digital health information. The Blue Button Toolkit includes the recommended technical standards for sharing data with patients in a structured way, and marketing materials to help organizations communicate the value of online access to health records. Organizations can follow these guidelines and use these materials to show their support for the Blue Button Initiative.
The Blue Button Initiative is a public-private collaboration that includes the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), the White House, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Department of Defense, and multiple private sector organizations. The objective of Blue Button is to engage and empower consumers and patients through electronic access to their own health information in a format they can use to better manage and improve their health and health care.
What’s new in the Toolkit?
The Blue Button Toolkit updates and replaces the Blue Button Implementation Guide. ONC expects that it will continue to evolve as new standards emerge over the next few years such as RESTful approaches and Fast Health Interoperable Resources (FHIR; to learn more, visit hl7.org/fhir).
Some key changes include:
- The technical standards in the Blue Button Toolkit include a portfolio of national standards that enable Blue Button and further the goal to empower all Americans with electronic access to their own health data. ONC is expanding the technical resources to support Blue Button beyond “Blue Button+” or “Blue Button Plus” to open up the possibility for new and emerging standards to proliferate in the future.
- We have added alternative technical approaches that support consumer exchange of information, in addition to the Direct protocols for the secure exchange of information. We now recommend and encourage the use of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), Secure Attachments, and Web Services to achieve information exchange with patients.
- We realize that a wide variety of organizations play vital roles in assuring that all patients can access their data, so we have expanded the audience for the technical guidelines to include labs, pharmacies, immunization registries, and HIEs.
- You can also find marketing materials and guidance on how to incorporate the Blue Button symbol into your product or upload it to your website, free of charge, to help convey your organization’s commitment to patient empowerment.
- We have also made some changes so that the site can be tailored to an organization’s specific needs (i.e. developer, pharmacy, consumer organization).
More tools for patients and developers
Be sure to check out the Blue Button Connector too – this resource, launched last spring, provides patients with a single place to get started in accessing their personal health information online via Blue Button. The site helps patients to find their own health information online, and provides links to apps and tools for consumers that can help them make use structured electronic health data. The Connector also features an open API for developers to learn what type of data is being made available and how it’s being made available – i.e. which format and transport mechanism.
We welcome feedback from the health IT community on the new website and hope you will let us know what you think! Keep in touch with us via Twitter: @ONC_HealthIT, @mayauppaluru, and @epoetter or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.