“Blue Button®” & You: 24/7 Access to Your Medical Record
We covered an overview of the HITECH Act in our last blog, and now we will delve into how it affects YOU—the patient. HITECH stands for the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. It aims to encourage all medical practices and providers to embrace health IT, or information technology. This includes implementing electronic health records (EHRs) instead of the long-standing paper files. President Obama is pushing this initiative forward; as it falls under the Healthcare Affordability Act. The sooner a medical entity complies by maintaining and providing health records electronically, the more financial incentives they will receive through the year 2015.
Electronic Health Record Access for Patients
So, how does this act affect you? For years, individuals have been able to inspect and obtain a copy of their protected health information. Well, HITECH extends the requirements so that patients’ health information is more secure and protected. And at the same time— entities must provide electronic health records (instead of paper files).
In the near future, all organizations will be directed to give patients access to an electronic copy of their medical records. Patients can also designate that a third party gain access. This is a significant change in our healthcare system. The development of health IT should greatly streamline communication between your doctors, pharmacy, hospital, and other organizations. Most consumers should initially be offered their electronic health records at their doctor’s office or hospital. In addition, the Act states that only a fee equal to the labor cost can be charged for an electronic request.
Introduction of the “Blue Button”
So, what exactly is the “Blue Button”? It is a new icon that universally represents access to individuals’ electronic health records. The Blue Button on a computer screen will be a clickable button which will allow you to download your health information on demand. Healthcare providers and insurance companies are already starting to utilize the Blue Button. The actual details of how its functionality will work are still being ironed out. Being able to access your health information 24/7 can be lifesaving in an emergency situation, prevent medication errors, and improve care coordination between your medical practitioners. Doctors and pharmacists will now have your data at their fingertips, such as current medications and drug allergies, claims, treatment and lab results. Patients can also plug their medical data into mobile apps and other tools.
Benefits of EHRs and the “Blue Button”
The roll-out of EHRs being linked to all of your health care providers is designed to offer many benefits. Here are just a few:
• Coordination of care among doctors. If you see multiple specialists in addition to your primary care physician, it is important that your care is coordinated. Doctors may prescribe different prescriptions which could interact in harmful ways. EHRs can warn your care providers if they try to prescribe a drug that could cause a negative interaction.
• Reduction of unnecessary tests and procedures. Repeating medical tests can be unnecessary and costly. This can mean a greater deductible for you and increased insurance premiums. With EHRs, all of your care providers have access to your test results and records.
• Direct access for review of your health records. It is crucial to identify wrong and missing information on your medical record—also to make additions or corrections. Providers who have already implemented EHR systems are beginning to give their patients access to their health information online. This should enable you to keep better track of your care. If you have a question about a past procedure, you will have the information at your fingertips instead of having to wait days.
When you think of searching something in the web you hear people say “Google it.” I believe “Blue Button it” will someday be synonymous with downloading your personal healthcare information. If you would like to “Blue Button,” (or download) your health information, check with your healthcare provider to see if their system is in place—and if not, when it will be. Remember, many healthcare systems are still working on all of this new technology. However, many do have EHR in place but may not have be up to speed with Blue Button. I recommend you ask your healthcare provider if they have a way for you to securely download your healthcare information – even if Blue Button is not in place. Please remember if you are not yet comfortable with using the computer for this type of information you can always request a paper copy.
To learn more about the Blue Button and EHRs, visit http://www.healthit.gov. Specific information for patients can be found at: Patients & Families resources.