Introducing the Blue Button Connector

Today at the HIMSS conference in Orlando ONC demonstrated the Blue Button Connector. This early release of the Connector website is an invitation to members of the growing Blue Button community to help to improve the website before it is more widely marketed to consumers and developers.  

The Blue Button Initiative is a public-private partnership based at the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) in close partnership with the White House, US Department of Veterans Affairs, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and the Department of Defense. Its objective is to engage and empower consumers and patients through electronic access to their own health information, which they can use to manage and improve their health and health care.

WHAT WILL THE BLUE BUTTON CONNECTOR BE?

The Blue Button Connector will be a website that helps consumers and patients to find their own health information online, and will help developers build tools that respond to the readiness of the market. It also will provide links to apps and tools for consumers that use structured electronic health data.

A CONSUMER TOOL AND AN OPEN DATA RESOURCE

The Connector was born out of a need for consumers to have a single place to get started in accessing their personal health information online via Blue Button.

Although the number of organizations providing Blue Button access to data for consumers is growing (and is expected to increase significantly via implementation by eligible providers and hospitals of the Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements that patients be able to view, download and transmit their health records electronically), many consumers still do not have access to their health data from any source. Even for those that do, obtaining it from multiple places can be, even with the help of the Connector, a time consuming process. We expect that in the near future consumers will be able to get their data directly from multiple sources via more seamless mechanisms. In the meantime, the Connector will help consumers to navigate within a fragmented industry and raises general awareness about the growing availability of electronic access to health data. The site also enables consumers to “shop with their feet” – to find providers and others who are offering electronic access to data.

While developing the Connector for a consumer audience, we realized it also has great appeal for entrepreneurs and developers in the transparency it provides about what type of data is being made available and how it’s being made available (in what format, using what transport mechanism).  We are making this data available to developers through an open API. The Connector is also supportive of developers in that it provides a platform through which consumers and others can find the tools they develop that use structured health data.

The Connector is the first ever open data source delivered through an open API that makes transparent the health data that is increasingly available to the public, which we believe will help to fuel the creation of new products and services. This is part of a broader push for open data spearheaded by the White House to liberate both government data and voluntarily contributed corporate data to fuel entrepreneurship, create jobs, and improve the lives of Americans in tangible ways.

HOW THE CONNECTOR WILL SUPPORT THE BLUE BUTTON INITIATIVE

The Blue Button Initiative encompasses the following activities:

  • Community engagement through the 500 member Blue Button Pledge Program, a voluntary effort through which organizations pledge to share health data electronically with consumers, build useful digital consumer tools, and spread the word publicly about the value of access to information. Organizations that share data with consumers via the Blue Button Pledge Program include health care providers, health insurance companies, pharmacies, labs, and state immunization registries. Approximately half of Americans have access to their health information via one or more of these sources.
  • Development and promotion of technical standards (called Blue Button +) to support the structured exchange of health data, which enables technology developers to build engaging and useful consumer tools.
  • Marketing the Blue Button logo as a brand that signifies both the availability of health data from a particular source, and the growing social movement toward consumer empowerment in a health context.

Through the Blue Button Initiative we and our colleagues are working to realize a vision in which all Americans have access to one or more sources of digital health data about themselves, and can use it effectively to meet their health goals. The Blue Button Connector helps to move us closer to that vision by providing greater transparency and information for both consumers and developers. Later this year we will to do a coordinated rollout of Blue Button PSAs in partnership with committed organizations in order to raise the profile of Blue Button among the general public. If you would like to participate, please contact us at bluebutton@hhs.gov

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Today we are demonstrating an early version of the Blue Button Connector.  The usefulness of this site will grow as the community contributes to it. We invite you to give us feedback on how to make it better, and let us know if you’d like to get your organization or app listed on it: bluebutton@hhs.gov

One Comment

  1. A great initiative. I would just urge that we remain focused and true to the mission of building a single place that “helps patients find their health information online in a single place”. This will allow the second part of download, transmit and view.

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