Game Changer? A Simple Download Capability | Markle | Advancing America's Future
Game Changer? A Simple Download Capability | Markle | Advancing America's Future

Game Changer? A Simple Download Capability

by Carol C. Diamond

I had the great privilege of presenting at the Connected Health Symposium in October. The enthusiasm from the participants was incredible to witness—a testament to the growing community engaged in realizing the potential of connected health.

Sometimes small changes have the potential to be transformative. For the first time this fall, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Medicare began offering a blue button on their password-protected online portals to give veterans and beneficiaries the option of downloading copies of key parts of their medical or claims information. The blue button is a small step; it’s just a simple text file; there is no new data (patients can download information that they can already view in the portals), and the technology to do this is not at all ground-breaking. The impact can be profound, however.

Wouldn’t things be very different if we all had a common expectation to have secure, easy access to our own health information electronically?

According to the VA, roughly 100,000 veterans have downloaded their information in the first month since they launched a blue button, simply by placing one on their secure website. In the Markle Survey on Health in a Networked Life 2010, we asked the public and physicians about their views on whether patients should be able to download their personal health information. Seventy percent of the public and 65 percent of the doctors agreed that patients should have this option. See more about the survey here.

We all understand the perils of missing critical elements of personal health information—either in our own care or in caring for a loved one. At a minimum, it wastes time and money. At worst, it has the potential to adversely affect our care and our health.  

And if we had our information, many new opportunities would exist for us to more effectively use it and share it as we choose. Application developers at companies like Adobe, Google, Keas, MedCommons, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, and RememberItNow! saw the blue button as an opportunity to demonstrate applications that would help veterans to use their downloaded information to stay healthy and manage their care, including apps that help them share it with other doctors, tap into other sources of relevant health information, get second opinions or manage a chronic condition. Several interesting apps were demonstrated in the Health 2.0 Blue Button Developer Challenger sponsored by the Markle Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on October 7, 2010.  See more about the challenge here.

These developments in just a few short months—both the clear demand on the part of individuals to download their information and the opportunity for innovations that will help people take a more active role in their health and health care—have us thinking. What would happen if all patients had this kind of quick access to their information from all of the services that hold it, like their doctors, hospitals, insurers, pharmacies, clearinghouses, personal health information services, etc?

What do you think?