News Feature | October 1, 2013

Blue Button Important For MU Stage 2

Source: Health IT Outcomes
Greg Bengel

By Greg Bengel, contributing writer

ONC is increasing its push for Blue Button, hailing it as the key to patient and provider engagement

Under Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, providers are faced with yet another requirement that may prove challenging. Stage 2 requires that at least five percent of an individual doctor’s patients download, transmit and view their health records through EHR portals. The key to fulfilling this requirement may be Blue Button.

Lately, the ONC has been strengthening its push for the Blue Button Initiative, publicizing it as a great tool for helping doctors engage with their patients and meet this five percent threshold. EHR Intelligence reports that just prior to Health IT Week, ONC’s director of consumer eHealth, Lygeia Ricciardi, made a statement on what ONC has been doing to encourage Blue Button’s adoption. “To encourage Blue Button’s growth and keep up with a rapidly changing technical environment, ONC has both loosened technical requirements for use of the Blue Button logo and developed voluntary guidelines for implementing Blue Button in a more structured way that is consistent with Meaningful Use requirements,” she is quoted in EHR Intelligence. “The Blue Button Plus guidelines, which were developed collaboratively with 68 volunteer organizations, enable organizations such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, and payers to standardize the structure and transport of health information and electronic health records to support the use of more sophisticated tools that allow consumers to better share their Blue Buttoned-information with others they trust and plug them into in apps and tools.”

Nue MD reports that ONC pushed Blue Button even more during Health IT Week. The article reports that ONC recently conducted a national survey to further knowledge about population awareness of Blue Button. The survey findings won’t be published until later this year, but Nue MD has some preliminary information:

  • “Fifty-seven percent of cardiovascular patients say they would use Blue Button if it were available.
  • Sixty-one percent of cancer patients would be either “extremely” or “very likely” to view their medical records via online patient portals, if they were accessible to them.
  • A number of patients – more than 25 percent – did not realize they had the right to view their own health information.”

That last bullet point may be the real kicker in terms of what could prevent providers reaching the five percent minimum required by Stage 2. According to, the OCR is trying to educate both consumers and providers on the right to patient data access. “There is a clear right [in the HIPAA privacy rule] not only of patient access, but patient control over everything in their records,” OCR Director Leon Rodriguez is quoted in the article. According to the article, Rodriguez also said that this fact was a “revelation” even to HIPAA enforcement officers.

Physicians can help themselves fulfill the Stage 2 requirement by helping educate patients on Blue Button and just getting on board with the initiative in general. As previously reported, experts are saying that physicians’ attitude toward Blue Button will determine its future.