The Veterans Affairs Department and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services kicked off projects this week that could lead to the creation of personal health records for almost a third of the U.S. population.
On Aug. 29, VA posted on the MyHealtheVet website a feature that allows veterans to download personal information such as blood pressure, weight, heart rate, emergency contact information, lab results, and family and military medical histories to a personal health record.
A personal health record is information controlled by an individual patient in a digital file. An electronic health record is maintained and managed by a doctor or clinician. Technology giants Google and Microsoft, as well as smaller companies such as WebMd, have developed applications that the public can use to create personal health records.
VA labeled the ability to download the medical data the Blue Button feature. CMS also plans to post a similar button that would allow Medicare and Medicaid patients to download personal medical information.
According to officials, VA cares for more than 6 million patients a year, while Medicare covers about 44 million people and Medicaid about 40 million. That's a total of 90 million patients who theoretically could create personal health records, or about 30 percent of the 310 million people in the United States.
Veterans will be able to test the personal health record feature during September and the MyHealthevet and CMS websites will go live in October with personal health records in conjunction with the Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.
Officials at CMSsaid they are providing the public with access to sample data sets at Medicare.gov, but beneficiaries cannot yet download their data onto personal computers. Data sets include allergy and prescription information along with claims data.
CMS and VA held an online meeting on May 10 on how to improve patient access to health data and the two are working together to improve service to beneficiaries.
In 2008, CMS launched a series of pilot projects with the Defense Department to test personal health records for retirees who also were Medicare beneficiaries. In 2009, the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., completed a test of Google and Microsoft personal health records in conjunction with Defense's AHLTA electronic health record system.