Blue Button Mashup Challenge

Damon Davis | August 20, 2012

Just by using Blue Button, more than 1 million individuals, including seniors, veterans and other service members and their families, and Medicare recipients can download their health and medical records and actively take part in their health care.

New i2 Challenge for App Developers

The Consumer eHealth Program at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently announced a new Investing in Innovation (i2) challenge  that calls on app developers to create an app that mashes up an individual’s Blue Button personal health data with open public health data that will result in better health care, better health, and lower costs. The deadline for the i2 challenge is just a couple of weeks away—September 5, 2012.

Blue Button

Blue Button was launched in 2010 by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), giving veterans a highly visible, clickable button that enables them to download their medical records in digital form from a secure website offered by their doctors, insurers, pharmacies or other health-related service. Blue Button is now used by nearly a half million veterans, a quarter million Medicare beneficiaries and nearly 75,000 service members and their families. Blue Button appears on the patient portals of more than one third of America’s hospitals and nearly one third of practicing physicians, and has been or is being implemented by more than 200 major health plans including Aetna, United Health Care, and Blue Cross. It is quickly expanding beyond the VA to have nationwide impact. Working with the VA, ONC is looking to app developers to help bring this tool to all Americans.

Blue Button Mash Up i2 Challenge

Giving patients information about the health care they receive is valuable in itself, but it is also important so patients can use that information to make informed decisions about their care.  One way to do so is by helping people contextualize their data to take action—and that’s what this i2 challenge is about.

Challenge participants must mash up Blue Button® data with information from at least two of the three-part aim categories defined by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services  Innovations Center: better health care, better health, and lower costs:

  • Better health care: Incorporate data related to one or more aspects of patient care, including safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, timeliness, efficiency, and equity (the domains of quality in patient care as defined by the Institute of Medicine).
  • Better health: Incorporate data that encourages healthier lifestyles including data related to physical activity, nutrition, avoidance of behavioral risks, and preventive care.
  • Lower costs: Incorporate data that encourages preventive medicine, improved coordination of health care services, and/or helps to reduce waste and inefficiencies.

Publicly available data can come from any high-quality open source, such as Apps should help individuals take action by giving their health information a more meaningful context. These actions could include, but are not limited to, reaching a better understanding of their current health status like getting a clearer picture of their own blood glucose readings as compared with others of their gender, ethnicity, or  those who live in the same community. Perhaps an individual could use decision-support software to choose between treatment options that have been recommended by their doctor, and consider the costs of those different options for themselves. And what if by targeting a person’s everyday behaviors with an app, they were able to modify the behaviors that have the greatest impact on their health? This will enable them to  adjust their behavior toward their own better health.

The winning app developer  will receive $45,000; the second- and third-place awards are $20,000 and $10,000, respectively. Winners will be announced later in the fall.

ONC’s i2 challenge program promotes the use of technology to find solutions that drive better outcomes, engages users in their health, and improves health care quality.

This is an exciting time in health care as we have more and more opportunities to be active participants in our own health and health care. Blue Button is gaining traction as one of the technical underpinnings of patient access to health information. I look forward to your ideas on additional innovative ways we can empower individuals and their families to be partners in their health through health IT.

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