Medicare, veterans to get downloadable health info

The U.S. government plans to announce tomorrow that it is adding a "blue button" to VA and Medicare Web sites, allowing users to download their own health records.

SAN LEANDRO, Calif.--The U.S. government is adding a new "blue button" to the Medicare and Veterans Affairs Web sites that will allow veterans and seniors on Medicare to download their health records onto their own computers. The program, though live already, is set to be formally unveiled by the White House tomorrow, CNET has learned.

Health and Human Services CTO Todd Park talked about the government's efforts to open up more of its data, including plans this week to introduce a "blue button" for Medicare recipients and veterans to download their personal health records. Ina Fried/CNET

For some time, the government has allowed both Medicare recipients and veterans to view their medical records or claims history, but is only now adding the download option, Health and Human Services department CTO Todd Park said in an interview today at the HealthCamp SF Bay event here. The Blue Button program is being announced by the White House on Thursday.

"It's a very simple idea," Park said. "We've added a blue button to the MyHealthyVet and MyMedicare.gov portals that allows you to download a copy of your own data so you can take it with you. You can print it, you can download it to other applications."

Adding the download option will let users add the information to their own personal health records, or share it with practitioners or with medical researchers.

However, it will be up to individual patients to decide with whom they share that data.

"It's their choice," Park said during his talk at the HealthCamp event. "I don't think anyone wants the government making [those] decisions for them."

Already, developers have been creating apps that can tie into the Blue Button data, and the Markle Foundation has issued a challenge for developers to create innovative programs that can make use of the information. Microsoft, for example, plans to announce this week that people will be able to import their Blue Button data into its HealthVault personal-record service.

Park has been helping lead an effort within the Health and Human Services department to make more of its data available, including an effort to make aggregate data more easily available to those outside the government.

I have a short video interview with Park that will post shortly in which he talks about the Blue Button program. I'll have more from him and from the conference in follow-up posts, including a bunch more videos, slideshows, and more.

Update, 4:35 p.m. PDT: The video is now live and embedded below.

About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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