Usually I like to talk about Blue Button for America from the perspective of a doctor or a public health perspective, since, well, that’s sort of my thing. But I’m also the Dad my two kids who see their pediatrician for routine & sick visits. The idea of Blue Button is actually something that every family and parent ought to be familiar with.
Let’s take vaccinations, for example. Today, as a parent, you might go to your pediatrician’s office, and hand them some forms that your school gave you, and they fill them out and back and forth it goes. Imagine instead a future where you can tell your pediatrician, “Hi; can you Blue Button those to me?” or you tell your local secure immunization registry, “Hi; can you Blue Button those to my school?” Or further still, get a reminder a little further in advance of the first day of school, so that when you’re, say, away for summer vacation, you still remember to get your kids’ immunizations up to date? These scenarios happen with the help of Blue Button digital data, and in particular with new standards and something called “Automate Blue Button”, that allows you to set a trusted connection once, and then let your doctor update you directly from time to time.
Kids also discover that they have allergies often at an early age – yet this information remains an oral tradition of storytelling, into adulthood. You might have had antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and then been mislabeled with a “Pencillin allergy” (note: diarrhea is exceedingly rare as the sign of an allergy). The good news is that with Blue Button downloads from your doctor’s Electronic Medical Record, your kids can carry this “drug reaction” data with them, in pristine, high-fidelity form from the day the doctor wrote the annotation, to the time when they have kids of their own and well beyond.
Families also tend to move – say, because of a parents’ career – and they find themselves in a new place, with new doctors to explain things to. Although great progress is being made between hospitals & doctor’s office exchanging secure health information with each other, the most reliable and consistent way for health data to move from point A to point B is probably patients themselves. For your kids, image the future, when you no longer have to carry a folder jam-packed with every scrap of paper from the doctor’s office (yes, I know most of you parents have one), but instead can securely save the digital file of your kids’ health record – even carry them on your mobile smartphone – and securely and privately send them to your new doctor.
So you might ask, that sounds great, but what’ll it take to make it happen? If you want it to happen, it all starts with being pro-active. Ask your doctor’s office if they have electronic medical records and something called a “patient portal”. Even if not, you can check with your health insurer and they’ll have a more administrative version of your health records (mostly diagnoses, procedures – including vaccinations – and medications). Letting your doctors and your insurers know that you’d like Blue Button access to your data is one of the first steps to creating a safer and more efficient future for your family.