Recently the HHS Office of the National Coordinator announced the new and improved Blue Button+. The original Blue Button initiative was aimed at making it easy for patient’s to access their personal health information in a useable and safe digital format. It started with the federal government and then spread to the private sector.
The ONC claims that the Plus version of Blue Button solves the following short-comings of the original:
- Provide structure for the file, and
- Minimize the need for consumers to manually move the files among providers or payors.
These changes will be a big step forward for the Blue Button initiative. The structure of the patient health information will be based on Consolidated CDA, the same standard required for Meaningful Use Stage 2. Utilizing consistent standards across workflows and applications is a major advantage in trying to achieve full interoperability throughout the continuum of a patient’s care.
In addition, exchange among providers and payors will be based on the Direct Project, once again a required standard for EHR applications in Meaningful Use Stage 2. This aligns both content and transport between Blue Button and Meaningful Use and provides the consistency in standards needed for full interoperability.
In a blog I posted in February 2012, Blue Button Interoperability – A Step Backward? I commented on the lack of structure in the original Blue Button roll-out. My fear was that it would cause patient confusion, reduce interoperability, and duplicate vendor efforts to comply to standards.
It is refreshing to see that the ONC has responded quickly to market concerns and pushed forward with the Blue Button+ initiative. The ONC seems to be making many efforts to push towards interoperability in a reasonable yet expeditious approach. The HIE Governance Town Hall meeting they hosted in January is another example of the ONC listening. I applaud them for making the efforts to move interoperability forward.