$50,000 Prize Could Buy More Blue Buttons for Vets

| July 24, 2011

Veterans who get their health care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have access to an easy-to-use personal health record that lets them download personal information with a click of a mouse. The VA is offering a $50,000 prize to the first team that can make that technology more widely available.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is looking to expand the availability of the Blue Button personal health record (PHR) that 6 million veterans now use to easily download some of the health information they have stored on the VA’s My HealtheVet. The agency is offering a $50,000 prize to the first team that figures out how to extend the same courtesy to the 17 million veterans who receive care from non-VA doctors and hospitals.

By clicking the Blue Button, users of the VA’s health portal can create a report that includes such personal health data as upcoming appointments at a VA Medical Center, medications, allergies, health reminders and laboratory results. The report can be downloaded into a PHR on the individual’s computer or it can be printed out and shared with the veteran’s other health providers, according to Healthcare IT News. Participants in the Department of Defense’s TRICARE health care program and beneficiaries using Medicare’s health portal, also have access to the Blue Button application. 

The VA contest is designed to expand the availability of Blue Buttons even further so veterans and other health consumers will be able to compile health data from multiple physicians, hospitals and health plans, both inside and outside the government. Having the Blue Button technology could also help individual health care providers qualify for the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs. Physicians and hospitals participating in those programs must demonstrate that they are making “meaningful use” of EHRs by, among other things, enabling their patients to view and download health information, according to Government Health IT.

If the competition runs as expected, the Blue Button PHR will soon be a simple internet-based application that lets physicians and other clinicians offer Blue Button PHRs to their patients, according to CMIO Magazine. In fact, the contest’s winning team must demonstrate not only that it created such an application but that 25,000 U.S. clinicians have installed it on public websites and that it is available for use by all the patients those clinicians serve.

The competition began July 18 and will end when a winner is announced or on Oct. 18, whichever occurs first.