Blue Button Program Expands into Private Sector

The Blue Button program introduced by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has expanded into the large-scale private healthcare sector. Insurer UnitedHealthcare has launched its version of the Blue Button program, which enables patients the ability to view, download, and print health information with the click of a button.

The VA launched Blue Button in 2010 to give veterans an easy way to exchange and access their health information in a consistent, standardized way. The VA then opened up the initiative to the private sector with the same mission—give patients private and secure access to their data, said Peter Levin, the VA’s chief technology officer, in a UnitedHealthcare press release.

Nearly half a million veterans and Medicare members have downloaded their records using the Blue Button interface. Now, millions more in the private sector will be able to use the health information exchange technology.

“Blue Button puts patients in charge of their personal health information. It is central to our vision of patient-centered clinical encounters,” Levin said. “The federal Blue Button initiative is a great example of public-private partnerships and open government.”

UnitedHealthcare members can access medical information from various sources, including claims data, health screenings, and self-entered data. The Blue Button function is available to members through the UnitedHealthcare-operated Personal Health Record,

The Blue Button initiative was first launched in pilot form at UnitedHealthcare in September 2011. Over the course of 2012, the insurer plans to offer the program to more than 12 million employer-sponsored plan participants. By mid-2013, the program will open to all 26 million UnitedHealthcare enrollees.

“Blue Button is a new, convenient way people can access their health records securely and easily with just a single click,” said Karl Ulfers, vice president of consumer solutions at UnitedHealthcare, in the press release. “This technology encourages people to update their personal health records as well as print them, so they can take their records with them and discuss their health and treatments with their doctors.”

The VA plans to work with other private sector entities this year to expand Blue Button’s use, according to Veterans Affairs CIO Roger Baker.

“By the end of 2012, we think as many as 75 million people will have access to their medical information through Blue Button,” Baker said in the press release. “We’re getting a lot of adoption by private-sector organizations.”

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