White House Rolls Out Health Record Download Tool

The Obama administration has formally announced a Web tool to allow veterans and seniors to download their EHRs (electronic health records) locally and share them with health care providers.

The Obama administration's White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has formally unveiled a Web tool that will enable seniors and veterans to download their PHRs (personal health records) to a PC or storage device and maintain control over information sharing with health care providers, according to a White House blog post.

At a meeting of health care industry executives, venture capitalists, corporate executives and government officials on Oct. 7 in San Francisco called DC to VC: Investing in Healthcare IT Summit, Aneesh Chopra, the U.S. CTO and associate director for technology in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, discussed the Blue Button tool. President Obama first introduced the Blue Button in August.

The tool will allow military veterans to click the Blue Button within their health records at the EHR portal My HealtheVet, from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to save their records locally or print them. Meanwhile senior citizens on Medicare can also use a Blue Button at Mymedicare.gov to save Medicare claims and health care information they've compiled, including lists of medications and pharmacy information.

Citizens on Medicare and veterans can download a copy of their PHR in ASCI format and save them on their local PC or storage drive.

One reason for the local downloads rather than storing the records in a shared location is to make sure a live person is downloading the information, according to a Wall Street Journal blog post.

You'll also be able to maintain control of who views the information, whether it's health care providers, caregivers, a health insurance company or family member.

In the future, citizens will be able to download their health information from Blue Button at local pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens or through lab companies such as Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, according to the administration's blog post.

In survey results announced on Oct. 7 by the Markle Foundation, approximately two out of three people surveyed (both patients and doctors) believed that people should have the ability to download their PHR. The Markle Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on health care and security technology.

"Seventy percent of the public and 65 percent of the doctors agreed with the concept of a Blue Button that you can click to download your own health information," said Dr. Carol Diamond, Markle Foundation managing director, in a statement.

"This represents a remarkable agreement between the general population and doctors," Diamond said. "In fact, only 7 percent of the public and only 15 percent of the doctors disagreed with a statement that patients should be able to download copies of their pertinent health information."

According to Markle, 62 percent of the public and 49 percent of doctors advocated that medical professionals share EHRs with patients.

To qualify for the $27 billion in federal stimulus money for EHRs, health care providers and hospitals must provide patients with electronic copies of medical records, including medications and labs results, Markle reports.