CMS puts Medicare personal health data at your fingertips

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rolls out a new download capability to grant 47 million Medicare patients online access to their medical records.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has launched a new feature on the the secure website that enables 47 million Medicare beneficiaries to view, download and print their complete medical records, officials announced.

The CMS "Blue Button" download feature is similar to the Veterans Affairs Department’s debut of a Blue Button capability on its MyHealtheVet website in August.

The Blue Button capabilities are open government initiatives by both agencies in response to calls from the Markle Foundation and advocacy groups to allow patients greater access to their personal medical data.

The VA’s Blue Button has already proven to be popular. Since it was introduced in August, more than 60,000 veterans have downloaded their medical files, the release said.

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VA, Markle push blue buttons to download personal health data

Both CMS and the VA are cautioning users of the Blue Button to take steps to protect the personal medical information once it is downloaded, either with a password or by encryption, or, if printed on paper, it must be stored in a secure location.

In the future, the feature will offer the ability to download data from the electronic record systems of major pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS, from major lab systems such as Quest and LabCorp; and from physicians’ offices, according to the news release.

Currently, only a small percentage of doctors use electronic record systems, but the adoption rate is expected to increase as a result of incentive payments under the economic stimulus law of 2009.

“Having ready access to personal health information from Medicare claims can help beneficiaries understand their medical history and partner more effectively with providers,” reads a news release published on the White House Blog.