Five national retail pharmacy chains and three pharmacy associations have joined the Blue Button movement, committing to use the federally developed protocols allowing patients to download their health records.
The chains adopting the protocols are CVS Caremark Corp.
, Kroger Co., Rite Aid Corp., Safeway and Walgreen Co.
They are joined by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Pharmacy Health Information Technology Collaborative and National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, according to an announcement on HealthITBuzz
, the official blog of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS.
“These steps will help patients access their prescription information and further empower millions of Americans to better manage their healthcare,” said the blog's authors, Nick Sinai, deputy chief technology officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Adam Dole, a presidential management fellow at the ONC.
Blue Button is a collection of data-sharing approaches sprung from an initial effort by the Veterans Affairs Department
in 2010 to provide veterans with copies of their medical records in the basic ASCII format—which means the data can be easily read by people and computers. Blue Button now also incorporates other messaging standards, including the Continuity of Care Document format and the Direct messaging protocol.
The feds have yet to launch their planned Blue Button Connector
, a website listing health plans and providers using the technology. The launch has been pushed back from January. A placeholder page
on the official HHS health IT website, HealthIT.gov, says the Connector is “coming soon.”
“It's an important happening for patients and customers,” said Dr. Bettina Experton, founder, president and CEO of Humetrix
, a Del Mar, Calif.-based developer of iBlueButton, a mobile app that downloads, aggregates and categorizes patient information using the Blue Button standard.
The key, though, Experton said, is whether the drug chains will adopt the enhanced standard, Blue Button+
, which uses a structure called the Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture developed by Health Level Seven, a healthcare standards development organization. Blue Button+ makes data more usable by patients, consumers and clinicians, Experton said.
For example, a patient could download a prescription in Blue Button+ and link it to information about drug side effects and reactions, or aggregate it with prescription records from other providers and remove duplicates.
“If the pharmacies go there, it will be very meaningful,” she said. If not, it remains just “a good first step.” In the announcement, only Walgreens indicated it will use Blue Button+.Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn