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Blue Button Access to EHR Data

Posted on September 20, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.


What great news that we got this month about the Blue Button having 1 million users. That’s a big number for what really amounts to a rather simple idea. The idea being that when you click on a simple blue button you can download your patient record.

The article in the tweet above points out how the technology of the Blue Button is simple, but it’s had a much larger impact than the technology would suggest. Here’s portions of what Peter Levin, VA’s chief technology officer, said about the Blue Button:

“There was no nuclear physics here. It’s not that hard to strip out all of the things on the back end that make a bold font and a blue background and put raw health data out.” he said. “Once we got the directive from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs himself, from a technical perspective it was really simple to implement.”

Levin said the more important hurdle Blue Button wound up overcoming was ingrained cultural notion that one’s own medical information should only be available to medical professionals.

“It was a big step in terms of attitude,” he said. “Providers now understand that it’s OK to make that data available, and patients now understand it’s OK to get that data. Both parties now understand in that conversation that they should be talking.”

Within VA, Levin said, providers have mostly embraced the idea. But holdouts do exist.

“You’re going to find some providers in our enormous national system that haven’t gotten the memo yet,” he said. “They’re going to say, ‘Why would you want that data? All a patient’s going to do is go to the Internet and start asking questions that make them more anxious and use more of my time.’ Those folks exist. But they’re in the minority.”

The article also suggests that between the VA, DoD, CMS and private insurers, 100 million American have access to their Blue Button patient records.

I really like this video that I found on the Markle website about the Blue Button. Putting some names, faces and stories with something always makes it more real to me. You’ll have to visit their website to see the video since they’ve disabled embedding of the video (which is a shame).

The Blue Button has been a good initiative to help liberate healthcare data. I’m sure we’ll see more of it in the future. Although, we could still use some better tools to do something with the data we download.

Guest Post: Overcoming EMR Integration Challenges

Posted on September 15, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Dan Neuwirth is the CEO of MedCPU, provider of the innovative MedCPUAdvisor™ platform: with applications for decision support for clinical guidelines, Meaningful Use, and care pathways, that captures the complete clinical picture in real time, including narrative text and structured data to deliver the most accurate clinical and compliance guidance.

There’s no question that healthcare needs to adopt new technology that makes us more effective and efficient and curbs costs, like Electronic Medical Records (EMR) solutions and Clinical Decision Support (CDS) systems. In today’s world, providers of all sizes continue to find it challenging to integrate existing HIT systems with EMRs for a variety of reasons. As our industry evolves, technology solutions need to be smarter and empower seamless integration.

EMR and HIPAA guest author Susan White covers in depth how a lack of connectivity standards affects EMR integration. There are no mandated standards for EMR vendors to follow, making it hard to coordinate data sharing between medical devices and other systems (including from one EMR to another), even at the same facility. As those systems operate in disparate fashions, critical clinical information is often lost or stuck in silos. Most importantly, the information is not where clinicians need it most–at their fingertips, in an exam room, with a patient.

This lack of data sharing is a pervasive concern. One Markle report finds that roughly 80 percent of both consumers and physicians demand that hospitals and doctors be required to share information that improves coordination of care, cuts unnecessary costs, and reduces medical errors.

In 2010, more than $88 Billion were spent on developing and implementing EHRs, health information exchanges (HIEs) and other health IT initiatives. When you consider that the average 10-physician practice spends more than $137,000 per year on prior authorizations and pharmacy callbacks alone, you’ll have to agree that the lack of data integration and sharing get very costly. And although I agree with John Halamka, who recently wrote these challenges exist because healthcare is inherently more complicated than other industries, I am a strong believer that a lot of them can be overcome by the use of smart technology.

We need smart, flexible solutions, which capitalize on existing technologies and require minimal integration. Technologies that employ advanced screen extraction, for example, empower several important improvements in the clinical decision support space such as the capturing and analysis of both free and structured text. A lot of time such solutions are rendered ineffective as they either lack compatibility with leading EMR systems or are too hard to integrate.

As the industry evolves, developing robust protocols for capturing both structured and unstructured data along with standards for data integration and sharing will become increasingly important. With all the data points created on patients every day, we will need a consistent, secure, and reliable way to capture and share patient data among all systems and healthcare providers. What is your experience? What are top data capturing and integration challenges faced by your organization? Looking forward to continuing the dialog and hearing your feedback.