The dirty little secret about ‘Blue Button’

Since last summer, various government agencies, notably the Department of Veterans Affairs, have been touting the Blue Button Initiative as an easy way of  sharing electronic data with patients. Just click the blue button in the patient EHR portal and download data into a personal health record or a printout. Sounds simple enough.

Late yesterday, my successor at a publication I was the primary writer of until late last year, cited the importance of the Blue Button, particularly when coupled with Microsoft’s HealthVault PHR platform. (If I turned in my story as late as 4:52 p.m. for that client, I would have been docked at least $150, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The fact that HealthVault and other “untethered” PHRs are non-starters when it comes to the public notwithstanding, Blue Button has a serious, perhaps fatal flaw. It outputs data in unstructured text form that’s not easily readable by an EHR. There’s no Continuity of Care Record, no Continuity of Care Document, no form of Clinical Document Architecture at all.

Just. Plain. Text.

One techie doctor I know calls this data essentially useless.

UPDATE 10 a.m. EST: The techie doctor I mentioned is Dr. Enoch Choi of Palo Alto Medical Foundation, per his comment below. He tweeted about this last month.