Patients Take Control of Their Health Data with Blue Button 2.0

CMS launches “Blue Button 2.0” tool, calls on all health insurers to make data available to patients

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new government-wide initiative, MyHealthEData, that provides patients with control of their health data. MyHealthEData is a response to the Executive Order to Promote Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States, issued by President Trump last year.

The initiative’s aim is to:

  • Empower patients, so every American can control their own medical data.
  • Break down barriers that prevent patients from electronic access.
  • Have patients control their own health records from any device or application of choice.
  • Let patients choose the provider that best meets their needs.
  • Give a patient’s chosen provider secure access to their healthcare data.
  • Stimulate greater physician competition to help reduce costs.

To help bring the MyHealthEData initiative to fruition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the launch of Medicare’s Blue Button 2.0. According to CMS’ Administrator Seema Verma in a CMS Newsroom press release, Blue Button 2.0 is:

A new and secure way for Medicare beneficiaries to access and share their personal health data in a universal digital format. This enables patients who participate in the traditional Medicare program to connect their claims data to the secure applications, providers, services, and research programs they trust.

Blue Button 2.0 allows patients to access and share the following information with a new doctor:

  • Healthcare information
  • Previous prescriptions
  • Treatments
  • Procedures

The initiative is designed to empower patients around a common aim – giving every American control of their medical data. MyHealthEData will help to break down the barriers that prevent patients from having electronic access and true control of their own health records from the device or application of their choice. Patients will be able to choose the provider that best meets their needs and then give that provider secure access to their data, leading to greater competition and reducing costs.

The MyHealthEData initiative will work to make clear that patients deserve to not only electronically receive a copy of their entire health record, but also be able to share their data with whomever they want, making the patient the center of the healthcare system. Patients can use their information to actively seek out providers and services that meet their unique healthcare needs, have a better understanding of their overall health, prevent disease, and make more informed decisions about their care.

For example, Medicare’s Blue Button 2.0 will allow a patient to access and share their healthcare information, previous prescriptions, treatments, and procedures with a new doctor which can lead to less duplication in testing and provide continuity of care. Medicare’s Blue Button 2.0 is expected to foster increased competition among technology innovators to serve Medicare patients and their caregivers, finding better ways to use claims data to serve patients’ health needs.

More than 100 organizations, including some of the most notable names in technological innovation, have signed on to use Medicare’s Blue Button 2.0 to develop applications that will provide innovative new tools to help these patients manage their health.

In her remarks, Administrator Verma specifically called on all healthcare insurers to follow CMS’s lead and give patients access to their claims data in a digital format.

“CMS serves more than 130 million beneficiaries through our programs, which means we are uniquely positioned to transform how important healthcare data is shared between patients and their doctors,” said Administrator Verma. “Today, we are calling on private health plans to join us in sharing their data with patients because enabling patients to control their Medicare data so that they can quickly obtain and share it is critical to creating more patient empowerment.”

Additionally, CMS intends to overhaul its Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs to refocus the programs on interoperability and to reduce the time and cost required of providers to comply with the programs’ requirements. CMS will continue to collaborate with ONC to improve the clinician experience with their EHRs.

Administrator Verma said CMS has implemented laws regarding information blocking – a practice in which providers prevent patients from getting their data. Under some CMS programs, hospitals and clinicians must show they have not engaged in information blocking activities.

The Administrator also highlighted other CMS plans to empower patients with data:

  • CMS is requiring providers to update their systems to ensure data sharing.
  • CMS intends to require that a patient’s data follow them after they are discharged from the hospital.
  • CMS is working to streamline documentation and billing requirements for providers to allow doctors to spend more time with their patients.
  • CMS is working to reduce the incidence of unnecessary and duplicative testing which occurs as a result of providers not sharing data.

This will help to eliminate physicians performing duplicate tests and will help provide continuity of care.

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