The Blue Button Movement: Personal Health Records
Week Seven: The Blue Button Movement: Personal Health Records
The Blue Button was an original initiative within the Veterans Administration (VA) as a directive symbol for veterans and beneficiaries to access the VHA’s personal health record (PHR) portal. The Blue Button image was adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology (HIT) in 2012. The adoption of the Blue Button Image foretold the Blue Button Movement. The Blue Button Movement is a marketing campaign aimed at patient empowerment and engagement.
Develop a press release on the topic of patient access to health data via the Blue Button Movement, which a client physician group recently joined. Your release should describe the Blue Button Movement & Pledge and discuss the expected patient benefits, a description of the increased security measures to uphold the privacy, security, and confidentiality of patient data, and an outline of the procedure to access patient data. Submit one (1) single Microsoft Word document at the conclusion of Week Seven no later than Sunday, by 11:59 PM EST. This is an individual assignment
Blue Button Movement: https://www.healthit.gov/patients-families/join-blue-button-movement
Blue Button Pledge: https://www.healthit.gov/patients-families/pledge-about
In a bid to further the efforts geared towards increasing the access patients have to their own health data, several organizations voluntarily came together and formulated the Blue Button Movement. The Blue Button originated from the Veteran’s Administration health portal as a symbol in 2010 (VA, 2018). The users were able, at the click of a button, to download their health records electronically. The organizations take the Blue Button Pledge as a mechanism to improve access to patient’s personal data to improve the patient’s healthcare experience and their health overall. Several organizations, in excess of 500, have taken the Blue Button Pledge to pull the data from their storage locations and place it in the custody of the patients and the consumers to whom the data is important to facilitate active engagement in the healthcare process. It was borne out of the need for an interoperable health system aimed at empowering individuals utilize their electronic health information effectively and to their advantage. The outcome is an efficient healthcare system that is safer and delivers, through the providers, smarter and more innovative systems at all levels (Health IT, 2015).
In recent years, more and more health care institutions have resorted to store the records of their patients electronically causing a sharp surge in electronic health record (EHR) systems. Regardless, these systems have largely remained isolated from each other hence national interoperability has been very elusive among the different systems. In several sections across the United States, however, the exchange of health information has been facilitated. Several hospitals routinely send a summary of care document and receive the same from other hospitals. However, very few hospitals integrate the information sent to them into a continuous record for each individual (Charles & Swain, 2015). Despite the significant steps that have been realized, nation-wide interoperability still requires a lot of input and effort from the various stake holders.
An immediate objective of the Blue Button Movement is to improve the quality of healthcare and its outcomes through sending, receiving, finding and utilizing priority data held in different domains. By 2020, the movement seeks to expand the different sources of health data and its various users within an interoperable health information technology system in order to lower the costs of healthcare whilst improving the quality. Eventually, the movement aims at attaining nation-wide interoperability by 2024 which will then enable a healthcare system that can learn and facilitate learning. The patient will be at the core of such a system which will have the ability to improve itself continuously and thus improve public healthcare by making the priority data accessible in real time (Health IT, 2015).
The Blue Button Movement is supported by two types of organizations namely: data holders and non-data holders. Data holders are organizations that store, maintain and manage health records of a specific individual. They include heath care providers such as hospitals, retail pharmacies or payers. Non-data holders, on the other hand, do not store individual health data for management or maintenance. They, however, have access to the consumers and therefore can educate them on the importance of accessing and making use of their health information electronically. Moreover, they are able to design mechanisms and tools that facilitate the consumers to make use of their electronic health information. Non-data holding organizations include employers, consumer based organizations, disease based organizations, product developers or healthcare associations (Health IT, 2015).
Benefits to Patients.
Despite it being their right, very often patients lack direct access to their own medical records as required. A cornerstone of the Blue Button movement is to increase the ability of the individual in managing their health by providing access to and ensuring secure use of their health information; stored and transmitted electronically. This enables them to make contributions to electronic health information regarding themselves and to provide this information to caregivers when required. Patients get to experience better healthcare. According to a study performed in hospitals in Texas, the hospitals equipped with more advanced health information technology infrastructure suffered fewer mortalities and lesser complications (Health IT, 2014).
In the event that a patient happens to change doctors, they can provide their new doctor access to their previous medical history allowing the doctor to make faster and more accurate diagnostics and a more accurate prescription. This can further be facilitated by e-prescribing systems for enhanced delivery of the drugs which also evade the human error that can occur in mishandling prescriptions. Information shared through the Blue Button Pledge, is received rapidly and in real time hence the patient will not have to wait for the doctor to call back later for medical results or reports. Patients will not have to redo tests unnecessarily in the event the doctor does not have access to prior result since all electronic health records are stored in EHRs that can communicate with each other. Moreover, this information is secure from natural disasters such as storms which can debilitate an institution and destroy its physical records. Several security measures, such as encryption algorithms, are also instituted to electronically secure the data (Health IT, 2014).
Security measures taken to uphold the confidentiality of patient data.
To achieve nationwide interoperability, providers and other stakeholders will have to adhere to a set of common regulations and standards, policies, services and methods that facilitate such information exchange. Legislative measures have been taken such as the Health Insurance Accountability and Portability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. This HIPAA Privacy Rule requires caregivers and healthcare service providers to protect and secure the data of their clients; both physical records and electronic records. Data holding organizations must regulate who has access to, can receive, share or can look at information about a patient’s health. Sharing and usage of the information must be limited to the minimum necessary amount to facilitate the purpose that is intended. They must put in place physical, technological and administrative protective safety nets on their patients’ health data (ONC: Health IT, 2015).
The HIPAA Security Rule provides the set of national minimum standards of security for the protection of all electronic patient health information which are maintained, stored, received and transmitted by a Covered Entity or a Business Associate. Organizations are required to routinely perform a security risk analysis in order to identify and analyse the risks facing their electronic and physical records. They are further required to enact various measures to improve security and mitigate the risks that have been identified (ONC: Health IT, 2015). Moreover, In the Blue Button Movement, responsibility of security is also shared with the patient. Once the patient asks for and receives their health records, it is their responsibility to ensure the data is secure and protect it from unauthorized access (McNickle, 2012).
In the event of a breach, organizations should have a pre-breach and post-breach process that must include an incident assessment and procedures to respond to the incident. Policies and procedures must also be updated regularly to include emerging technologies such as mobile devices and wearable technologies. Organizations that allow employees to bring their own devices must also cater for the security risks brought by the same (ONC: Health IT, 2015).
Procedure to access patient data
Patients have a statutory right to access their health information. They can do so by making a written request to their doctor or healthcare provider. In case they cannot facilitate this, they also provide a written explanation for the same. The data is provided via an Application Programming Interface (API) that is accessible online. All the patient has to do is click a button and download their records in both machine readable and human readable format. The Blue Button + implementation guide provide the various data formats, the protocols to use in transmission and the APIs that software and web developers can use to create applications. These applications facilitate convenient and automated exchange of health information accessible via the Blue Button Initiative. The records can be stored on a thumb drive and carried with the patient to the next visit.
To facilitate better care coordination, more education and sensitization needs to be made to the patients about the Blue Button Movement. This is because they are the centre of the system and therefore only they can share their health information. Further research into how health documents of a patient such as Blue Button reports can be incorporated into the workflow of the clinic and of healthcare providers should be done (Klein et al, 2015).
Charles, D., & Swain, P. (2015). Interoperability among U.S. Non-federal Acute Care Hospitals. ONC Data Brief. Washington DC: Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
Health IT. (2014). Individuals’ Access and Use of their Online Medical Record Nationwide: ONC Data Brief. Office of The National Coordinator for Health IT.
HealthIT. (2015). Connecting Health and Healthcare for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap. Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.
McNickle, M. (2012, January 10). 7 Things to learn from the Blue Button Initiative. Retrieved from Healthcare IT News: http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/7-things-learn-blue-button-initiative.
Klein, D. M., Fix, G. M., Hogan, T. P., Simon, S. R., Nazi, K. M., & Turvey, C. L. (2015). Use of the Blue Button Online Tool for Sharing Health Information: Qualitative Interviews With Patients and Providers. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 17(8), e199. http://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.4595
ONC: Health IT. (2015). Guide To Privacy and Security of Electronic Health Information . Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.
VA. (2018, March 20). Blue Button. Retrieved from US Department of Veteran Affairs: https://www.va.gov/bluebutton/