Jan. 18, 2012, Washington, DC - Millions of federal employees, retirees and their families will soon be able to use the Blue Button® to download their personal health data from the websites of their health plans.
In a Carrier Letter issued on December 19, 2011, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) asked all health insurance carriers in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) to add Blue Button functions to personal health record systems (PHRs) on their websites.
Blue Button allows patients to see, download and keep their personal health data by clicking the "Blue Button" on a secure Internet site. Patients can then choose to share their data with their physicians or family members or make it available if emergency treatment is needed. Blue Button downloads are delivered in text files that can be downloaded, read, stored and printed on any computer without special software. Patients can also authorize use of a Blue Button transfer of their medical data from a treating physician to another medical provider. An important innovation that enables patient's easy access to their personal health information, Blue Button has already been adopted by some 500,000 veterans, servicemembers, Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) beneficiaries in just 14 months.
"Blue Button empowers hundreds of thousands of patients with their own data," said Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer. "We want federal employees, their families - and the general public - to benefit from easy access to Blue Button downloads as it rapidly scales to become a routine service in the care delivery system."
"All health plans already have claims and personal health information in their databases, and virtually all FEHBP health plans currently offer a personal health record to their members," said OPM Director John Berry. "Adding Blue Button will make these records more readable, more accessible, and more useful to patients and families. This easy access to lab results, medication and problem lists, allergies, appointment data and wellness reminders makes care both easier and better."
In a report issued in September, 2011, OPM found that 97 percent of all FEHBP carriers representing 98 percent of enrollees were offering some form of personal health records to their members. About three quarters of FEHBP carriers, the report found, already include medical claims or health record information in PHR data. FEHBP insurers that don't already offer Blue Button downloads must notify OPM of their plans to add it to their personal health records by March 15, 2012.
"Blue Button is about patient-centered care," said Peter L. Levin, Chief Technology Officer at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). "It is a very simple file that can be securely downloaded to any computer or smartphone without special software."
OPM administers health benefit programs for the civilian sector of the federal government, including all executive agencies, Members of Congress and their staffs, and the federal judiciary. More than 200 separate health insurers in the FEHBP deliver health benefits to more than eight million employees, retirees and family members.
More information about the Blue Button function is available at http://www.va.gov/bluebutton. To view the Carrier Letter on Blue Button please see http://www.opm.gov/carrier/carrier_letters/cltrs2011.asp. The OPM report on use of Health Information Technology by FEHBP carriers is available at http://www.opm.gov/insure/health/reference/hitreport2011.pdf.
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