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Blue Button Hack-a-thon: Help Unleash Your Data

by Andrea Ippolito, MIT PhD student and Co-Lead of MIT H@cking Medicine

Every year, I take my car to a mechanic for an annual inspection. After my car gets checked out, I receive a vehicle inspection report, which lets me know my eight-year-old Civic will still keep on ticking for another year, and provides some insight to the tune-ups I probably need to get done. But what can I do when I want the same type of access and understanding of my personal data, such as my recent medical tests, a medications or vaccine list, or past medical history? Well, that’s exactly what the folks behind “Blue Button” are working toward. And they need your help to dream up the most interesting and impactful ways to serve up your data!

What exactly is Blue Button? At its simplest, Blue Button is a visual button used on many health care-related websites that lets consumers know they can access their health information online. Seeing this button means that you, the patient, can view your healthcare providers’ patient portal and download your health records so you have the information you need to improve your health. With Blue Button we also have greater control over our personal health information and family’s health care. And under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), all patients have a legal right to their personal health information. The Blue Button initiative makes it is easier to obtain your own personal health information to make better decisions about your own health.

The Veterans Administration (VA) was the first organization to display the Blue Button symbol on its online patient portal in 2010, and U.S. veterans quickly embraced it with over 1 Million downloads of electronic medical records within the U.S. Veterans system alone. Soon, Blue Button spread to other government agencies and the private sector. In fact, it became so popular that, in 2013, leadership of the Blue Button initiative was transferred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator (ONC), a champion of patient engagement that’s well-positioned to support Blue Button’s nationwide growth.

But we’re just getting started in this space. Now is the really exciting time when we get to begin brainstorming the ways to disperse this health information to patients. So what better way than to start hacking?

Through their More Disruption Please program, and in building on their advocacy for initiatives that help empower and educate patients and health care providers, athenahealth is supporting a noteworthy hack-a-thon called the Boston Blue Button Innovation Challenge. This event, run jointly by the ONC for Health IT, the White House Innovation Fellows, MIT H@cking Medicine, and Tufts MedStart, brings together health care providers, patients, entrepreneurs, designers and developers to learn about and ruminate over Blue Button use. The end result could provide the next step in Blue Button data usage and propel patient engagement and information access into a new realm. So join us this weekend at Tufts Medical School in Boston, January 17-19.

Get ready for some innovative developments and new products that will be ready to work with Blue Button data!

You can find more information on the event website and apply here! Join us and help unleash your data!

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