WEDI: Blue Button awareness improving 'slowly'

The Blue Button initiative is beginning to catch on, according to the latest survey from the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI).

The survey--of 274 provider, government, plan and clearinghouse respondents shared with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services March 13 and announced March 16--found that patients are accessing their personal health records (PHRs) via Blue Button more often and that more organizations are offering the tool; 38.9 percent are now offering an online PHR, up from 33.6 percent in 2013. The percentage of organizations with no plans to offer a PHR dropped from 28 percent to 23.6 percent. Respondents noted that it was significant to offer the PHR to all patients, and to enable the patient to retain control over who has access to the PHR.

The survey also found that 66 percent of the PHRs were being populated by integrated EHRs, up from 53.8 percent. Inclusion of medical device data has also increased. Organizations are relying less on patient-generated input, as population by patient entered data dropped from 50.8 percent to 35 percent.   

Interestingly, the percentage of consumers with "no awareness" of Blue Button increased from 32 percent in 2013 to 49 percent in 2014, and that increasing awareness "remains an opportunity." WEDI hypothesizes that this figure was impacted by the increased number of allied and behavioral health providers participating in the survey; they are not participants in the Meaningful Use program and therefore have less incentive to provide PHRs and online portals.

"[I]ndustry stakeholders are slowly building awareness about the Blue Button Initiative," WEDI concluded. "It appears that usage and adoption of personal health records continues to grow among industry stakeholders."

The Blue Button initiative provides secure, easy online access to a patient's electronic health data. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT took on responsibility for taking Blue Button nationwide in 2012.

Providers and patients are warming up to data sharing and patient portals, although confusion persists. Humetrix, the National Association for Trusted Exchange, the National Council for Behavioral Health and several other organizations recently have asked the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to clarify that it's OK for providers to share EHR data with patients via Direct Messaging.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- read the letter to HHS (.pdf)
- access additional information from WEDI