Consumer Health Organizations Feedback to HHS: The Public Needs to be Informed about Applications like iBlueButton
May 10, 2013
By Christopher Burrow, MD, EVP Medical Affairs, Humetrix

In March, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) issued a request for information (RFI) seeking public input on how to accelerate interoperability between electronic medical record (EMR) systems and health information exchange (HIE) between healthcare providers and patients. The RFI acknowledged that, despite significant progress in the use of EMRs by physicians and hospitals, these systems have yet to deliver on the interoperability and patient-centered health information exchange needs so that up-to-date patient information is available wherever patients access healthcare services. The RFI asked for new effective and feasible ideas for stimulating these areas.

Since consumer-directed HIE and patient engagement are at the heart of what iBlueButton delivers, we at Humetrix were quick to take the opportunity to send suggestions to HHS. We outlined our vision of how consumer-facing mobile HIE applications like iBlueButton have the power to alleviate interoperability and provider exchange challenges. We described how an easy to use but powerful mobile app—which transforms difficult-to-interpret Blue Button claim data into a consumer-friendly, three-year longitudinal clinical record—can revolutionize patient and provider access to and use of electronic health information today.

The RFI’s 45-day comment period is now up, and the responses flowed in thick and fast. I am especially gratified by the input sent to HHS by The National Partnership for Women & Families on behalf of 150 consumer health organizations from across the US, including AARP, AFL-CIO, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Consumers Union, and Families USA.

This broad-based coalition of consumer organizations represents diverse constituencies with a direct stake in improving the health, economic security and quality of life for older adults with multiple health conditions and their families.

Importantly, this group specifically requested that CMS inform the public about our iBlueButton app.

Here’s what their letter to CMS said:

We strongly encourage HHS to plan and implement corresponding beneficiary engagement and education efforts that will be necessary to fully realize the potential of patient access and use of their electronic health information.

For example, current Medicare beneficiaries who download their claims data from CMS via Blue Button may easily be overwhelmed by the amount, complexity, and clinical nature of the information they receive. It is incumbent upon HHS to ensure that consumers are aware of tools like the iBlueButton and other applications that upload, organize, and display this information in ways that are understandable and useful to patients, families, and providers.

At a minimum, CMS should prominently display information explaining the availability of these applications and other resources on the website, preferably next to the Blue Button.

This call to HHS by the nation’s leading consumer health organizations strongly supports the value of iBlueButton in giving consumers the power to access and exchange with providers their own health information, rather than solely relying on EMR systems and provider-based means of exchange to solve the significant technological and other provider barriers restricting its flow today.

We are very excited to have the opportunity on May 16 to demonstrate iBlueButton to the National Partnership’s entire membership. This is just one more step moving us closer to a time when patients, their families and providers can easily, effectively and securely collaborate for better health outcomes.

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