By Edward Yurcisin

As our President, Aneesh Chopra, often notes, there appears to be a “generational consensus” from leaders in Washington seeking to tap the expertise of the American people to solve big problems. This is exactly what happened on Monday August 13thwhen the White House Office of American Innovation and CMS hosted the Blue Button 2.0 Developer Conference to share insights on how Medicare claims data can be leveraged, among other agency announcements – from the VA’s “micropurchasing” program for app developers, to AHRQ’s $250K “Step Up” App challenge focused on FHIR-enabling patient reported outcomes, in collaboration with CareJourney member, MedStar Health.

The CMS Administrator, Seema Verma, kicked off the conference with an impassioned personal story of her husband’s hospital admission illustrating the need to simplify (and standardize) how patients can access their, or their loved ones’ health information. She introduced developers to a new Blue Button 2.0 API that offers secure access to Medicare claims data in a FHIR format.

Blue Button 2.0 enables Medicare beneficiaries to connect their claims data to the applications, services and research programs that they trust.  Beneficiaries have full control over how their data can be used and by whom. Since healthcare data is often siloed within a facility’s electronic medical record, sharing information with the entire care team can be challenging.  However, using Blue Button 2.0, Medicare beneficiaries can consolidate data across multiple providers and care settings.  This enables a beneficiary to designate a physician or health system as “quarterback,” to coordinate care with a better understanding of a patient’s journey across the care continuum.  Patient and physician burdens are reduced through the use of Blue Button claims data because the data can be shared across the breadth of care settings. For example, a health application could aggregate data into a dashboard for beneficiaries, or a medication list could be pre-populated for patients during clinical trial enrollment.

CareJourney members Dr. Shafiq Rab,, Dr Omar Lateef, and Modi Boutrs of Rush University Medical Center presented one of the first approved Blue Button applications empowering patients to connect Rush to their Medicare claims records right on their mobile phones. We are honored to enlist Rush as our “alpha” partner to provide Blue Button users with a “Medical Year in Review” re-purposing many of our claims-based analytics shared with Medicare ACO executives.

In addition to demos and presentations on CMS’ activities, an exciting coalition of leading cloud platforms committed, with one voice, to remove interoperability barriers using open standards through FHIR and the Argonaut project in their cloud computing infrastructures and vowing to eliminate the friction that currently exists in healthcare data. Executives from Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce joined the commitment and many spoke as Dr. Peter Lee, Microsoft Corporate VP and head of Microsoft Healthcare NExT, to the historic moment whereby the competitors for a fast growing segment of new customers chose to collaborate in “just the right ways.”

CareJourney believes that interoperability and open APIs, such as FHIR and the Argonaut Project, are critical to unleash an apps economy working to improve patient care and reduce costs.  Healthcare improvement is driven with the adoption of open standards that enhance the exchange of healthcare data and gives patients access to their health information.  Information sharing across the continuum of care is essential to deliver high quality care.   Thank you to the White House, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the United States Digital Service for hosting the Blue Button Developer Conference and advancing interoperability.