VA Opens Contest To Expand 'Blue Button' to External Sites

This week, the Department of Veterans Affairs launched a competition for health IT developers to submit proposals on ways to advance the capabilities of the "Blue Button" system and allow non-VA health care providers to offer the feature, CMIO reports (CMIO, 7/19).

VA announced the competition in a notice posted in the Federal Register.

About Blue Button

The Blue Button system is a simple and secure way for veterans to download, store or print medical information (Mosquera, Government Health IT, 7/15).

From the MyHealtheVet site, veterans can use the Blue Button tool to download:

  • Demographic information;
  • Emergency contacts;
  • Lists of prescription medication; and
  • Wellness reminders.

The data can be stored in personal health records that can be shared with health care providers (iHealthBeat, 9/14/10).

About 350,000 people -- of whom 300,000 are veterans -- use the current Blue Button functionality, according to the agency (CMIO, 7/19).

Details of Competition

According to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, about six million veterans receiving health care from VA facilities currently can download their personal health data through Blue Button, but the agency hopes to expand the system's capabilities so that an additional 17 million veterans receiving care at non-VA health care providers also can access the portal (Merrill, Healthcare IT News, 7/19).

The competition is sponsored by the VA Innovation Initiative, or VAi2, which aims to solicit innovative ways to improve health care access and quality and boost operational efficiency.

The Blue Button tool must fulfill a number of requirements, which include:

  • Complying with certain HIPAA regulations;
  • Offering a usable application on a public-facing Internet site for 25,000 U.S.-based clinicians; and
  • Supporting downloads in plain-text and PDF formats (CMIO, 7/19).

The competition will run until Oct. 18 or until VA announces a winner (Healthcare IT News, 7/19). VA is offering a prize of $50,000 (Government Health IT, 7/19).

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