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ONC Announces New Blue Button Toolkit

September 16, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has launched a new toolkit designed for organizations that want to use Blue Button technology to help consumers get access to their digital health information.

The Blue Button Toolkit—which was unveiled at the 2014 Consumer Health IT Summit in Washington D.C. to kick off National Health IT Week—includes the recommended technical standards for sharing data with patients in a structured way, and marketing materials to help organizations communicate the value of online access to health records. Organizations can follow these guidelines and use these materials to show their support for the Blue Button initiative, ONC officials said in a Sept. 15 blog post.

The Blue Button Toolkit updates and replaces the Blue Button Implementation Guide. ONC expects that it will continue to evolve as new standards emerge over the next few years such as RESTful approaches and Fast Health Interoperable Resources (FHIR).

Some key changes include:

  • The technical standards in the Blue Button Toolkit include a portfolio of national standards that enable Blue Button and further the goal to empower all Americans with electronic access to their own health data. ONC is expanding the technical resources to support Blue Button beyond “Blue Button+” or “Blue Button Plus” to open up the possibility for new and emerging standards to proliferate in the future.
  • ONC has added alternative technical approaches that support consumer exchange of information, in addition to the Direct protocols for the secure exchange of information. ONC now recommends and encourage the use of APIs (application programming interfaces), secure attachments, and web services to achieve information exchange with patients.
  • ONC has expanded the audience for the technical guidelines to include labs, pharmacies, immunization registries, and health information exchanges (HIEs).

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