Blue Button+, A Step Forward

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:

  1. Provide structure for the file, and
  2. 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.

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Rob Brull

Rob Brull is the product manager for Corepoint Health. He has worked with software products for over 15 years as both a product manager and sales engineer. Past companies and organizations include Tyco Electronics, Deloitte Consulting, and various distributors of software monitoring and control products. His main focus is to ensure his solutions enable customers to simplify healthcare integration complexities with user-friendly yet powerful software capabilities. This includes meeting applicable Meaningful Use requirements as well as fully supporting related healthcare standards such as CCD, CCR, and greenCDA. Rob is also a Certified HL7 CDA Specialist.

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  • Nir Zion Pengas

    so the BB+ is not a library on github or something? whoever wants to structure/style PHR will need to transmit the data via direct to ONC? maybe i’m missing something here…

  • Rebecca Coelius

    Nir- you aren’t transmitting any data to ONC. DIRECT is the secure exchange of patient data in the CCDA between say an EHR and your personal PHR or another application of your choice. Its a big deal because all of the EHR vendors are required to allow for patient view/download/ and transmit in this structured format for MU2. Blue Button Plus also goes a step further, so that updates to the EHR are automatically pushed to your chosen application. This is a massive opportunity for the marketplace. Previously most applications had to rely on patient self entry or a really nice, open EHR….

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  • Nir Zion Pengas

    thanks rebecca for your answer. i was more hoping that bb+ will contain a usable/open source library that transforms a ccd/ccda into json (rather than ascii).

  • Rebecca Coelius

    Sorry for the delay, I guess this isn’t set to notify re replies.
    The good news is that this is in development, we estimate that it will be out in the next few weeks. stay tuned!