UnitedHealthcare Adopting VA's Blue Button Technology for Patient Records

UnitedHealthcare has adopted the VA's Blue Button technology to allow about 20 million people to download personal health records from the insurance carrier's Website.

UnitedHealthcare is easing patient access to personal health records (PHRs) by rolling out the federal government's Blue Button Web tool.

The Obama administration announced the Blue Button initiative in 2010. Developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Health and Human Services, the technology allows patients, or consumers, to download their personal health data as a PDF or text file.

UnitedHealthcare announced it would use Blue Button in September 2011 and officially launched its implementation on July 5, 2012.

"Blue Button is a new, convenient way people can access their health records securely and easily with just a single click," Karl Ulfers, vice president of consumer solutions for UnitedHealthcare, said in a statement. "This technology encourages people to update their personal health records as well as print them, so they can take their records with them and discuss their health and treatments with their doctors."

Patients maintain control over where their medical data flows into, according to UnitedHealthcare.

Since the administration implemented Blue Button, more than a half million veterans and Medicare members have been downloading PHRs using the tool, Veterans Affairs CIO Roger Baker said in a statement.

About 75 million people will access their PHRs using Blue Button by the end of this year, according to Baker.

"We're getting a lot of adoption by private-sector organizations," said Baker.

A PHR contains information on a patient's vital signs, health risk assessments, lab tests, medical history and family health history. It also includes claims data.

In addition, the patient records store information on allergies, allergic reaction episodes as well as upcoming doctors' appointments.

Other PHRs include Microsoft's HealthVault platform and MMRGlobal's MyMedicalRecords.

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) of Health IT in HHS has implemented a Blue Button Mash-Up Challenge to encourage companies to integrate the Blue Button tool with actual clinical data from physician-managed electronic health records (EHRs), in which doctors input data on medical conditions and medications.

UnitedHealthcare will eventually integrate its PHRs with EHRs in the cloud, the company reported.

By adding the Blue Button icon to its Myuhc.com customer Website, UnitedHealthcare members will be able to store their health records locally in a PDF or text format or print them.

UnitedHealthcare also offers a mobile Web version of Myuhc.com. The insurance carrier began its Blue Button rollout for 500,000 Health Plan of Nevada members in March.

It plans to roll out the Blue Button tool to more than 12 million participants by the end of 2012 and all 26 million UnitedHealthcare members by mid-2013, the company reported.

The VA has implemented the Blue Button tool into the My HealtheVet PHRs for veterans, active service members, their dependents and caregivers.

"Blue Button puts patients in charge of their personal health information. It is central to our vision of patient-centered clinical encounters," Peter L. Levin, chief technology officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said in a statement. "With Blue Button the government created a framework that offers patients private and secure access to their data, and is a model for the private sector."