Medical Society of Virginia

Blue Button: Portable medical histories for patients

March 2012

BlueButtonSince the launch by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of the innovative Blue Button Initiative in August 2010, veterans who choose to use the Web-based tool are able to access and work with providers to develop their own portable medical histories. Shortly following the VA’s efforts, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began offering Blue Button to Medicare beneficiaries and since that time it has become increasingly popular among individuals who strive to be knowledgeable about and involved in decisions regarding their health care. The Blue Button initiative is one of many efforts to support e-personal health care using open government principles, with the ultimate goals of increasing efficiency, reducing costs and improving the overall quality of care.

How does Blue Button work?
Veterans can log into a program called My HealtheVet at www.myhealth.va.gov and click on the Blue Button to access information from their health records. Similarly, Medicare beneficiaries can register to use www.mymedicare.gov, which has a secure site where they can access their Medicare claims. In addition to official records, patients can enter personal information such as emergency contacts, medical conditions and medications.

In both instances, users can save information on individual computers and portable storage devices or print it in a safe, convenient and easy-to-read format. With the ready access to personal health information that Blue Button allows, Veterans and Medicare beneficiaries can better understand their medical histories and partner with providers and others they trust in tracking and planning their health care.

Why use Blue Button?
As Blue Button continues to spread, it will advance the sharing of information for the improvement of coordinated care, allowing users to compile health information from multiple hospitals and physicians. Blue Button will also support providers in meeting meaningful use requirements when they provide patients with the capability to download their information in one or more of the standardized formats endorsed in the meaningful use standards.

If you plan to provide Blue Button data to your patients, you can apply for a license to use the Blue Button marks, such as the logo and “Download My Data” slogan, at no cost by visiting: http://www.va.gov/bluebutton/apps/License/.  

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