The Blue Button is a simple idea with potential for big impacts. The concept came about from the idea that people should be able to access and download their own health information.
What is Blue Button?
The Blue Button approach is a simple concept: A patient is provided with a highly visible, clickable button to download his or her medical records in digital form from a secure website offered by their doctors, insurers, pharmacies or other health-related service. People can log into this secure website to view and have the option to download their health information, so they can examine it, check it, and share it with their doctors and others as they see fit. The Blue Button download capability is a tool that can help individuals get access to their information so they can more effectively participate in and manage their health and health care.
Out of a collaboration convened by the Markle Foundation, several agencies of the federal government have taken leadership roles in modeling this practice. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare, and TRICARE already offer hundreds of thousands of individuals a Blue Button to download their medical records or claims information from their secure websites. Now several other organizations – both public and private sector – are pledging to offer similar download capabilities for their patients and members.
The wealth of personalized data contained in digitized medical or claims records also presents a unique opportunity for software developers to build applications that can truly transform how individuals interact with their care. Several "Developer Challenges" have already resulted in the creation of groundbreaking apps that could literally save lives and improve health outcomes on a broad scale. As the Blue Button download capability becomes more widespread, we can expect to see more and more apps designed to take the data individuals can download and turn it into useful information and valuable tools used to manage one's health.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio supported the development of this website as a reflection of our belief that providing access to personal health data contributes to better engagement in your health care and, ultimately, better health outcomes.
To learn more about Blue Button and the Foundations' support for it, read RWJF Chief Technology and Information Officer Stephen J. Downs' blog post on The Huffington Post.
Frequently asked questions →
For the first time ever, veterans will be able to go to the VA website, click a simple Blue Button and download or print your personal health records so you have them and can share with your doctor outside of the VA. –President Barack Obama
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Giving people online access to their medical records or claims information can enable them to become informed and empowered partners in their own health and health care. When provided with personal health information in a digital format, patients can help doctors, nurses and caregivers treat them more effectively.
Redundant lab tests can be avoided, harmful medical interactions stand a better chance of being caught, and patient-doctor communications will be improved.