WEDI Survey Finds Decreased Awareness of Blue Button Tool

March 16, 2015 in News

Health care organizations’ awareness of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Blue Button tool  to give patients access to their personal health records decreased from 2013 to 2014, according to a survey by the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange, Clinical Innovation Technology reports (Walsh, Clinical Innovation Technology, 3/16).

Background on Blue Button

In 2010, VA launched the Blue Button tool to help veterans access and exchange their personal health data in a standard, consistent manner.

Since then, other private and federal agencies have implemented the tool (iHealthBeat, 9/16/14).

Details of Survey

The survey was conducted between Oct. 31, 2014, and Dec. 8, 2014. It included 274 responses from a variety of stakeholders (Clinical Innovation Technology, 3/16).

WEDI, a designated adviser to HHS under HIPAA, sent the survey findings to HHS on Friday (WEDI release, 3/15).

Findings

The survey found that 49% of respondents in 2014 said they were unaware of the Blue Button tool, up from 32% in 2013. Researchers attributed the change to the fact that the 2014 survey added providers that are not eligible for incentives under the meaningful use program (WEDI letter, 3/13).

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

Insurer and provider respondents increased their use of Direct — a federally sponsored messaging protocol — to transmit data compared with 2013, while technology developer and government respondents decreased their use of Direct for such purposes.

Among all respondents, use of Direct with Secure Blue Button Trust decreased from 15% in 2013 to 8% in 2014 (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 3/16).

Meanwhile, the survey found that health care organizations are increasingly using integrated EHRs and medical device data to populate PHRs accessible through Blue Button. The survey also found that use of integrated EHR data to populate PHRs through Blue Button increased to 100% in 2014 among government respondents, up from 60% in 2013. Meanwhile, use of integrated EHRs remained consistent among providers in the same time period.

In addition, researchers found that both providers and government respondents increased their use of medical device data to populate PHRs that are accessible through Blue Button.

The survey also found that about 80% of respondents either offered or planned to offer all patients access to PHRs.

Meanwhile, health plan respondents cited the importance of privacy controls over PHRs. For example, 89% of insurers provided out-in functionality in 2014, an increase from 69% in 2013.

The survey also found that while direct mail, email and text messages remain top priorities for communication with patients, some respondents also cited the importance of providing mobile services, sharing data with other providers, and sending information to third party services and applications (WEDI letter, 3/13).

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