Health IT is transforming care by incorporating technology and real-time health information exchange. These modernized methods of recording and sharing medical information is allowing the healthcare structure to become more responsive to the need of the general populous. We have already witnessed the impact of electronic medical records (EMR) and clinical decision support systems in healthcare. However, in order to complete the care cycle, everyone across the care continuum including the patient, must be involved in the care delivery process.
Patient engagement has been a major target for the government over the last couple of years. This is the reason why healthcare authorities are pushing health education material for patients whilst encouraging the development and use of patient portals. Most industry experts believe that by establishing a connected care network, medical professionals will be able to extend their care to patient homes, changing the structure of care delivery.
The blue button feature was initially released for the military, allowing veterans and military personnel to access their health records. However, with ONC set to push patient engagement, the blue button feature is now likely to be opened for public use titled as ‘Automate Blue Button Initiative’. “We simply can’t improve a patient’s health without involving them. They need to be educated about diseases and need to have instant access to relevant information. After all it is the patients who are in control of their health.”, says a New Jersey based physician.
Peter Levin Veteran Administration’s chief technology officer and Blue Button developer explained that the blue button project was a rare example of the American government doing something only it could do. ONC’s first step will be to develop standards governing the blue button project. This should eventually allow patients to download and share their health information in a more secure manner. Patients will be able to request physicians to transfer information from EMRs to their personal health records, along with the possibility to forward this information to referral providers and personal emails.
Dr. Doug Fridsma, director of ONC’s Office of Standards and Interoperability explains that the Automate Blue Button Initiative needs work with standards and interoperability, but believes that the project has a lot of potential – citing “the blue button has become a movement…”