It's Your Data! Shouldn’t You Control It?
September 25, 2013
By Bettina Experton MD, MPH, Humetrix President & CEO

As consumers, we’d all be shocked to learn that our bank has transferred our money or our personal information to another financial institution without our involvement. Yet, this happens every day with medical information.

The healthcare industry seems like the last sector to move responsibility for information transfer into the consumers’ hands. But, a new national movement is changing this. Blue Button®, a public-private partnership, already allows the 100 million Americans – mostly Veterans, and Medicare beneficiaries – to download and share their health records either as printed documents or by using mobile device apps.

But too few people today know about this initiative and therefore don’t know to download their Blue Button record. This impacts their safety and puts them at a disadvantage in best managing the medical care they receive.

The need for patients to get involved by obtaining their medical records has never been more urgent. A recent estimate suggests that up to 400,000 preventable deaths occur each year in the United States due to medical errors. Some of these might be prevented if up to date patient information could be available wherever we receive care.

So what do you need to know about Blue Button? The federal Blue Button initiative, initially launched by the Veterans Administration (VA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Defense is now embraced by over 500 private and public organizations. Blue Button is about giving Americans easy access to their online health records and allowing them to share that data with their care providers.

Today more than 100 million individuals can access their Blue Button records from provider or payor portals displaying the Blue Button icon, and more are coming online every day. Blue Button also enables new consumer rights to obtain electronic health records contained in the Omnibus HIPAA rule, which took effect on September 23.

Still, the next step is putting the patient in the driver’s seat when it comes to sharing that information. Mobile technology is the pathway to patient-driven healthcare information exchange, especially when and where it matters: at the doctor's office, in the ER or when admitted to the hospital. Shouldn’t we be able to bring our most up to date health information to each and every doctor’s appointment?

With smartphones, we suddenly have a computer in our pocket, capable of storing all of that information. And with apps like Humetrix’s own iBlueButton or upcoming ICEBlueButton apps, we also have the capability of sharing our digital health records with our physicians at the point of care, or with emergency responders as needed. Suddenly, we’re active participants in the sharing of data and in planning our care – and isn’t that the best-case scenario for everyone?

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