HHS seeks what's beyond the Blue Button at the Consumer HIT Summit

When the Department of Veterans Affairs launched Blue Button--which allows patients to get their health information online--in 2010, they didn't know they'd be starting a movement for the rest of the national health IT community to rally around.

But that was precisely the theme of this year's kickoff to National Health IT week yesterday at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: "Accelerating the Blue Button Movement."

Outgoing National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari (pictured) introduced the three parts of healthcare--patient-centered care, connected healthcare and an emphasis on better day-to-day care--he said brought him to the main question of the day: "Is it time for this movement to move beyond us misfits [in this room] to the broader world of healthcare and health? Is now the time?"

"To me, that's really about the healthcare system that listens to patients' preferences and has shared decision making," Mostashari said.

Co-founder of the Society for Participatory Medicine Dave deBronkhart--aka, ePatient Dave--followed up on Mostashari's remarks, pointing out that patients perform better when they know better. He added added that providers, overall, need to be "more consumer focused in their efforts.

Mostashari, speaking with Lygeia Ricciardi, the director of the Office of Consumer eHealth at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, said that it is "humbling" that government alone can't do what the country needs.

"But the government, together with consumers and the private sector, can," he said. "One way government can lead is by doing--we're just going to do it, and lead by example."

Ricciardi talked about the three A's ONC is touting for consumer data: access to information; making information actionable; and attitudes--changing the way patients think about their data.

"We've really decided to adopt and rally around this symbol of Blue Button for this movement," she said. "We're changing behaviors here. Blue Button is a symbol for what you can do."

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, who previously held the same role with HHS, commended the Blue Button progress made since his first health IT summit three years ago.

"There's never been a better time to be an innovator in health data," Park said. "I'm a passionate advocate for how data can transform healthcare. We urge to explore opportunities opened up by Blue Button."

Park added that there are issues that a mature Blue Button ecosystem could have helped prevent.

"There are many stories that don't end well," he said. "In the future, this will change because of you, and this is why your work is so important. It will save lives."

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