Patient engagement is an important new requirement for Stage 2 Meaningful Use, and it’s a potential stumbling block for eligible hospitals and professionals failing to exceed the five-percent threshold required on this during this next phase of the EHR Incentive Programs.
One approach to satisfying this requirement that has received tremendous support by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the Blue Button Initiative. Now, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is looking to build on this momentum by increasing its efforts to see this functionality adopted across the nation.
Prior to the kickoff of National Health IT Week, ONC’s Director of Consumer eHealth Lygeia Ricciardi described what the federal agency has done to facilitate easier adoption of the Blue Button:
To encourage Blue Button’s growth and keep up with a rapidly changing technical environment, ONC has both loosened technical requirements for use of the Blue Button logo and developed voluntary guidelines for implementing Blue Button in a more structured way that is consistent with Meaningful Use requirements. The Blue Button Plus guidelines, which were developed collaboratively with 68 volunteer organizations, enable organizations such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, and payers to standardize the structure and transport of health information and electronic health records to support the use of more sophisticated tools that allow consumers to better share their Blue Buttoned-information with others they trust and plug them into in apps and tools.
Now the ONC is set to make an even bigger push. Writing on HealthITBuzz, Director of Communications Peter Garrett revealed the ONC’s intention to launch a national communications campaign beginning in 2014 highlighting the Blue Button as a means of driving patient engagement and healthcare reform.
“Here at ONC, and many of us who work in health care, are already ‘true believers’ of Blue Button because we see the huge potential for higher quality, safer care when patients and caregivers use technology to be more engaged in their health,” he writes. “We knew that once exposed to the concept, many patients and caregivers are quick to embrace the Blue Button. Over a million veterans have used Blue Button, and many are seeing the benefits.
Recently, the ONC has reached out to a number of patients to determine their attitudes toward the Blue Button and what the department found was positive. “While Blue Button is not well known, the concept is very appealing to the folks we heard from — especially in giving them and their caregivers access to their health information during an emergency,” reveals Garrett.
Results from a nationwide survey, which will be published in its entirety this Fall, showed that between two-thirds and three-quarters of patients are unaware of their rights as patients. However, this lack of knowledge hasn’t dampened the desire of certain types of patients to use the Blue Button or become more engaged in their healthcare. In particular, nearly sixty percent of heart patients indicated they would use the Blue Button were it available to them and nearly two-thirds of cancer patients reported being more than likely to view their health information online where available.
As the survey demonstrates, the obstacle in the way of patients being able to view, download, or transmit their electronic health information centers on the ability of healthcare organizations and providers to enable a capability such as the Blue Button.