Blue Button Codeathon: Unlocking Data and Empowering Patients

Anyone who has struggled to remember the name of their medication or the date of their child’s vaccination, while juggling multiple doctor appointments for family members, knows firsthand how important it is that patients have access to their health information. We think our Blue Button initiative can help.

We’re working every day at ONC to make sure that all patients can take advantage of their legal right to access their health data.  The goal of the Blue Button initiative is to empower patients to download their health information in both a human and machine-readable format, and support developers with standards and guidance to create patient-facing technology.

Liberating patient data, or making information from data holders such as insurance companies and health care providers easily available to patients, through Blue Button will require strong partnerships between a variety of players: health care professionals, the government, patients, and the innovation community.  Recently ONC, working closely with Optum, an information and technology-enabled health services business, hosted a Power to the Patient Codeathon at Health 2.0’s Annual Fall Conference External Links Disclaimer in San Francisco. We also worked with Validic, a REST API that connects data from more than 75 mobile health apps, wearables, and in-home medical devices, to offer access to a range of sample data.

The Codeathon brought together developers, designers, medical professionals, and entrepreneurs from across the country for two days of designing and coding. The goal: patient empowerment through access to their health data using the Blue Button.

Codeathon submissions followed two tracks: applications that use patient-generated data from consumer devices to help providers better care for patients outside the clinic, and applications that redesigned the Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statement to make it more patient-friendly. Participants had to build their submission in 36 hours or less.

The winning submissions reflected a diverse mix of applications that can make a real difference in patients’ lives, giving them the tools they need to manage care for themselves and their families.

Blue Button & Patient Generated Health Data Track Winners:

  • Edge Interns External Links Disclaimer: Provides a safe and user-friendly environment for patient health evaluations, allowing doctors to schedule appointments, create medication reminders, and monitor patient health remotely.
  • Light Hearts External Links Disclaimer: Creates a congestive heart failure workflow for patients after they are discharged from the hospital, with the goals of promoting patient engagement through mobile and connected devices. It also helps prevent hospital readmissions.
  • Patient Watch External Links Disclaimer: Gathers patient data from wearable devices to track physiological changes, such as blood pressure or heart rate, and alerts the patient’s doctor through the EHR if there is a potential adverse drug reaction or complication due to a procedure indicated by vital sign fluctuations.

Financial Information & Explanation of Benefits Track Winners

  • WTF! Denied? External Links Disclaimer: Extracts data from the patient’s Explanation of Benefits and presents it to patients in a redesigned, easy to understand layout, and allows patients to interact with each other in an online forum dedicated to resolving EOB issues.
  • MintMD External Links Disclaimer: Consolidates, manages, and verifies patients’ healthcare cost information from multiple sources, including health insurance claims data, provider bills, insurance statements, and the patients’ Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account.
  • Archimedes External Links Disclaimer: Helps patients make informed purchasing decisions on California’s Health Insurance Exchange by combining patient health data with advanced analytics to deliver personalized, ranked insurance plans. The tool helps patients sort through the information about all available plans and choose one that best suits them and their family.

The participants considered the Codeathon a success. According to Jean-Ezra Yeung of MintMD, “The project was motivated by my own personal experience as a patient with many EOB documents seeking to manage costs…Codeathons with well-defined problems and use cases can help those with the business and technical know-how to create products that can add value to society.”

Adarsh Uppula of Patient Watch had this to say: “The Health 2.0 Codeathon was a great venue for tech entrepreneurs to mingle with medical professionals and pitch a winning idea in less than 36 hours! We think technology is going to disrupt health in a big way.”

These creative tech solutions demonstrate what can happen when health innovators have the tools they need to make their ideas a reality, and help us envision a future where all patients have control over their own data. Join the movement and stay updated on our progress External Links Disclaimer as the ONC continues to support and enable patient engagement in healthcare through Blue Button!



  1. Tyler Hayes says:

    Maya, I’m confused by your implication this hackathon had anything to do with Blue Button

    I was at the this hackathon. I don’t remember hearing anything about Blue Button other than what Rebecca mentioned a bit in passing for a couple minutes when she explained her background. The criteria for contestants didn’t include Blue Button nor do I remember talking with any other contestants at length about Blue Button.. Blue Button certainly wasn’t in the advertising for the hackathon nor was it a theme of the hackathon.

    I’m confused why you call the event a “Blue Button Codeathon” and the winners “Blue Button & Patient Generated Health Data Track Winners”. The event was about empowering patients, yes. It was not about Blue Button, which is what I’m inferring from this article.

    • Maya Uppaluru says:

      Blue Button is a consumer brand that represents: 1) Patient access to their health and healthcare system data, and 2) Patient-mediated exchange of that data. The Blue Button + portfolio of standards includes specifications such as Blue Button + Direct, Blue Button + REST, and Blue Button + Payer. Are you referring to one of those specifications within the portfolio when you reference Blue Button not being part of the criteria?

      For this Codeathon, the ONC Blue Button team developed the two tracks to represent the future of patient mediated exchange and where we are going with Blue Button. Track 1 was about patient-mediated exchange of their own data, including device data. It closes the data loop. Track 2, the Claims/EOB data, reflects the Blue Button + Payor specification work group, which you can participate in here:

      We are sorry that this wasn’t clearer to all participants, and our Blue Button team is happy to speak with you if you have further questions. Thanks for participating in this event!

  2. Chris Gaza says:

    Yah this is a good initiative, they should create mobile apps for that, that automatically remind me of health tasks from appointments with doctor, vaccination dates and a usb with my usb data so that when i go to the doctor i can give my doctor . i know there are privacy concerns but then this can save lives

  3. BC says:

    It is a solid idea to have a central location to store patients vital information. I especially liked WTF! Denied data extract. Is there a time frame to launch these as global solutions?

  4. S Laila says:

    I am looking forward to join the movement as I am expecting a baby in couple of months and doing some pre-preparation for it. I am very positive about it after reading the article and the way IT can help me and many other parents.

    • Martin Miller says:

      Yes we are also expecting shortly and agree this is an important initiative. To have easy access to this type of information with the world of information technology that we currently live in looks an obvious path to go down.

  5. Matt Davison says:

    My wife and I are expecting our first child next spring and are already inundated with the plethora of healthcare information and data being shared. Any tech solution to assist in data handling is welcome in my book. I agree with Chris that mobile apps will help tremendously. Look forward to hearing more about this.

  6. KC Frank says:

    Anything to provide more data at our fingertips can’t be a bad thing. Love the initiative!

  7. Suzy White says:

    I really enjoyed this article and this initiative. I am going to be having my 3rd child in February and this is something I had no idea about.

    It seems there is always so much to know, thank you maya!

  8. Sanria Linda says:

    This is a great initiative for both medicine and the patients. With the useful idea, I don’t have to try to remember all the names of the medication which I always forget before. Now, I am going to having a baby, I will need to use the Blue Button.

  9. Jim Petzke says:

    Great idea, I can’t believe there aren’t more solutions like this out there in the healthcare world already.

  10. Shu Arvilla says:

    This is a really important initiative. We need to know the information that is placed in our medical records.

  11. Steve Eason says:

    Very interesting concept. I was a user of the Microsoft Health Vault while it was active and unfortunately it’s been closed. I felt it was a good resource for keeping my data all together. I’ll have to see how this project has progressed since this was written. Thanks!

  12. Thomas Xavier says:

    Sounds like a nifty (and useful) digital passport of all your medical data – lets just hope that this blue button initiative has a solid plan with regards to safeguarding patient data from hackers and the like.

  13. Matt says:

    Having had surgery recently, I agree that it can be tough to get clear and concise data. When I do get it, it’s often in the form of DX codes and other gibberish that I have to translate. I’m all for this concept.

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