Blue Button Logo

Blue Button® Toolkit

Support Consumers in Getting
& Using Their Health Records

What would you like to do?

View

Enabling patient's the ability to view their electronic health records within a secure patient portal interface. As the adoption of smart phones continues to increase, there is a growing expectation that patients be able to view their records on the go.

File TypesTXTHTMLJPG / PNG

SecurityTLS/SSL

Download

Enabling patient's the ability to download a machine readable copy of their health records so that a patient may securely store it or share it with a destination of their choice.

File TypesPDFXMLCSVJSONDOC

SecurityTLS/SSL

Transmit

Patients should have the ability to securely send their health data to a destination of their choice. This includes patients sharing their health records with a broader care team, informal caregivers and even sending their data to third party apps and tools designed to help them better manage their health and coordinate their healthcare.

StructureFHIR ResourcesFHIRSITE CCDAHL7 CCDAVarious StandardsHL7 2.5.1Draft SpecificationVarious EDI Transactions

VocabularyRxNorm - NIHVarious Code SetsLOINCCPTICDSNOMEDCVX

1. RESTful

An application programming interface (API) is a set of routines, data structures, object classes and/or protocols provided by libraries and/or operating system services in order to support the building of applications.

Content TypeJSONXML

SecurityOAuthSAML

ExampleBlue Button API

2. Direct

The Direct Project specifies a simple, secure, scalable, standards-based way for participants to send authenticated, encrypted health information directly to known, trusted recipients over the Internet.

Content TypeS/MIME

SecurityX.509

ExampleBlue Button Trust Bundles

3. Web Services

A Web service (also Web Service) is defined by the W3C as 'a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network'

Content TypeXML

SecuritySAML

ExampleSOAP

4. Secure Attachments

Email encryption refers to encryption, and often authentication, of email messages, to protect the content from being read by any but the intended recipients. Email encryption has been used by journalists and regular users to protect privacy.

Content TypeEncrypted Files

SecurityVarious File Encryption

Example

GitHub Blue Button Project Page

Various open source development projects that support Blue Button.

View Github dashboard


Blue Button Clear

bbClear is an open-source framework for rendering more usable health records.

View Blue Button Clear


Standards Implementation & Testing Environment

The 'SITE' aims to provide a central collaboration environment for developers and the standards community, and thus facilitate the rapid adoption of those standards in EHRs. The SITE is divided into sandboxes, one for each standard supported by the SITE.

View SITE


Connector API

The Blue Button Connector provides a free, public, read-only API to access the directory of healthcare organizations that are making health records available to patients and apps that ingest structured health information.

View the Connector


S&I Framework

The Standards & Interoperability Framework creates a forum – enabled by integrated functions, processes, and tools – where healthcare stakeholders can focus on solving real-world interoperability challenges.

View S&I framework


Blue Button Logo

The words 'Blue Button,' the Blue Button logo, the Blue Button Combined Logo and the slogan 'Download My Data' are what consumers look for when they want electronic access to their health data.

View Blue Button logo files


PHR Model Privacy Notice

PHR Model Privacy Notice - The personal health record model privacy notice is designed to be a standardized template that a PHR company can use to succinctly inform customers about its privacy and security policies.

View PHR notice


Health Record Design Challenge

Examples of redesigned health records submitted in 2013 in response to an open source challenge sponsored by HHS.

View design challenge


FAQs - Privacy & Security

Frequently asked questions for organizations implementing Blue Button.

View FAQs


The Blue Button Print Ads

Print PSAs feature various images of the Blue Button that can be used in electronic or hard copy magazines, newsletters, and newspapers. Downloadable photos and graphics, including the print PSAs, are available in the Image Library.

Download PSA assets


The Blue Button Web Banner Ads

Web banner advertising for Blue Button

Download banner ads


Fact Sheets

These easy-to-read fact sheets provide essential information for people to find out about the importance of having online access to their medical records and what they can do with their information once they have it.

View fact sheet (PDF)

These easy-to-read fact sheets provide essential information for people to find out about the importance of having online access to their medical records and what they can do with their information once they have it.

View fact sheet (PDF)


Patient Stories

These messages are underscored by the moving stories of people who have benefited from Blue Button.

Use the VA Blue Button to Access Your Personal Health Information


Blue Button Logo

The words 'Blue Button,' the Blue Button logo, the Blue Button Combined Logo and the slogan 'Download My Data' are what consumers look for when they want electronic access to their health data.

View Blue Button logo files


Sample Blog Posts

Sample blog post to be used by organizations supporting Blue Button.

Blog Post - Consumer Advocacy


Sample Tweets

Sample Tweets to be used by your organization to promote your use of Blue Button

Sample Tweets - Blue Button Promotional Tweets


The Blue Button PSAs

30-60 sec Blue Button PSAs

60 sec Latina woman in her forties who is living with cancer

60 seconds Blue Button PSA for senior 65+ with chronic conditions

60 sec Blue Button PSA for Caregivers

30 sec Latina woman in her forties who is living with cancer

30 sec 65+ African American man living with diabetes

30 sec Blue Button PSA for Caregivers


Introduction & Frequent Questions

Blue Button is a nationally recognized symbol indicating to consumers that they can get their own health records electronically from doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, such as pharmacies and health insurance plans. With electronic access to their health records, consumers can check them for accuracy and completeness, share them with people they trust—in case of emergency or to coordinate care among different providers—and reference them as needed. Health records may include clinical information from doctors and hospitals, health insurance claims, prescription histories, and lab/diagnostic test results.

The Blue Button Initiative is a public-private partnership to empower consumers with easy and secure access to their health records from a variety of sources in a format they can use. More than 500 companies have pledged their support to increase consumer access to and use of their health data and as a result, more than 150 million Americans are already able to access their health information online from a variety of sources. The Blue Button Initiative is supported by a growing portfolio of national standards that support individual consumers in using tools developed by the private sector, including applications and services that help individuals to analyze data and make better use of it to manage their health.

The Blue Button Toolkit is a set of resources for organizations that are working to make it easier for consumers to get and use their health records electronically. Target organizations include hospitals and doctors’ offices, health plans, pharmacies, labs, Electronic Health Record vendors, consumer app developers, and consumer and patient advocacy organizations.

The toolkit is organized according to what an organization is trying to do. It includes a set of recommended technical standards, guidelines and approaches for sharing electronic health information with consumers in a structured way that allows patients to get their own health data and stimulates the development of applications and services by entrepreneurs to help patients upload their information to make better use of it. The kit also includes marketing materials to help organizations communicate the value of Blue Button to consumers.

The information in the toolkit can help organizations’ leadership to understand the Blue Button Initiative, and why they should participate. Other resources, including technical guidance and marketing materials, should be shared with appropriate experts in each area. For example, an individual provider with his or her own practice may wish to share this toolkit with their Electronic Health Records (EHR) vendor as part of a conversation about implementing or enabling features such as the “view online, download and transmit” requirement in Stage 2 Meaningful Use in a way that supports patient and family engagement with their health data.

In short, to be part of an initiative to provide every American with secure, electronic access to their vital health information so they can use it to stay healthy or achieve better health outcomes.

Increasingly consumers expect easy electronic access to a wide variety of goods and services. From checking the weather to managing finances, most Americans are able to access and analyze information in real time to support informed decision-making. Healthcare is different since much of our vital health information is locked away in filing cabinets or electronic health records (EHRs). Although 90% of Americans believe they should be able to access their own health information online, and 2 out of 3 are willing to switch healthcare providers to one who provides online access, most healthcare providers don’t yet offer such access, or require consumers to log into their proprietary portal to get it. How do we get consumers their health information so they can manage their health the way they manage other aspects of their lives? Widespread electronic access to health records from multiple sources by consumers, compelling tools that make the content of the records useful, and a shift in public awareness and attitudes regarding the role of the consumer or patient.

To achieve these ends, the Blue Button Initiative is catalyzing consumer access to their own electronic health data in a consistent way, using a defined set of national technical standards and a shared symbol: the Blue Button logo.

The use of consistent technical standards by “data holders” (such as hospitals, provider offices, pharmacies, and health plans) for sharing health data with consumers is important because it makes it easier for technology developers to build tools when they can predict what types of data they will receive and how it will be transmitted. Consistent standards also make it easier for consumers to transfer health records from one source (such as a pharmacy), to another (such as their primary doctor). The Blue Button recommended technical standards also satisfy the requirements for Stage 2 of Meaningful Use with regard to enabling patients to view, download, and transmit their health information, and support the information sharing necessary for the success of Patient Centered Medical Homes, Accountable Care Organizations, and other emerging payment reform initiatives.

The use of consistent Blue Button branding by organizations that support consumer engagement likewise offers advantages: digital access to their own health records is a relatively new concept for most consumers, so they are not inclined to expect it or ask for it, particularly given the traditionally paternalistic culture of healthcare. Just like the EnergyStar symbol that signifies energy efficiency on products as diverse as dishwashers and light bulbs, Blue Button universally stands for electronic access to health information for consumers, whether it’s from a healthcare provider, hospital, pharmacy or a health insurance plan. With consistent usage of the Blue Button symbol by the federal government and the private sector, more and more Americans are associating it with getting access to their health information.

For a company or consumer organization, use of the Blue Button logo conveys to your customers or members that you encourage them to be partners in their health through access to and use of their health information, and that you are forward thinking, customer-oriented, and tech savvy. It also signals that your efforts are part of a larger initiative to enable every American with secure access to their vital health information so they can have it available when and where they need it.

In 2010, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) first used the Blue Button symbol on their patient portal to give veterans and members of the military the ability to download their health records. In 2012 the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) took over responsibility for leading the expansion and evolution of the Blue Button Initiative beyond the VA to other federal agencies and the private sector. ONC, in collaboration with the White House, VA, DoD, CMS and hundreds of private sector volunteers has since evolved the recommended standards that support the Blue Button Initiative, refined public messaging related to the brand, and greatly expanded the number of participating organizations. Today, more than 500 companies in the private sector have pledged their support for Blue Button and more than 150 million Americans are able to access their digital health information from at least one source.

The Blue Button Initiative is a public-private partnership based out of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the US Department of Health & Human Services (ONC) with strong support from other federal agencies, including the White House, VA, CMS, DoD, IHS and the private sector. Watch Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. explain the significance of Blue Button

More than 500 private sector organizations participate in the Blue Button Pledge Program, including Aetna, United, Walgreens, CVS, Quest, Microsoft, the Mayo Clinic, AARP and the American Cancer Society. For a full list of participating members, please see www.healthit.gov/pledge. You can also see how far along specific organizations are with respect to enabling electronic access to their health data via the Blue Button Connector website at http://bluebuttonconnector.healthit.gov. Although many healthcare providers do not yet offer such access, the majority of Americans have electronic access to their own health records electronically via one or more organizations listed on the Blue Button Connector, including health plans and pharmacies.

In 2013 the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued the Blue Button+ Implementation Guide to support data holders/providers and third party applications in implementing Blue Button standards. This Blue Button Toolkit is the evolution of that original implementation guide, but with a few significant changes:

  • The standards and other technical guidelines in the Blue Button Toolkit are drawn from a portfolio of national standards that support the Blue Button Initiative. They can be referred to as “Blue Button recommended standards.” We are no longer promoting the term “Blue Button+” or “Blue Button Plus” because it was confusing to people relative to “Blue Button” or the “Blue Button Initiative”.
  • We have diversified the technical approaches that support consumer exchange of information to keep pace with industry norms. Specifically, in addition to Direct protocols for the secure exchange of information, we now recommend the use of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), Secure Attachments, and Web Services.
  • We have expanded the audience for the technical guidelines to include labs, pharmacies, immunization registries, and HIEs.
  • We have added marketing materials incorporating the Blue Button symbol that can be co-branded and used free of charge to assist with outreach to consumers to convey the importance of access to health information and support for consumer empowerment.
  • We have also improved the user experience of the guide so that it can be filtered and tailored based on audience (developer, pharmacy, consumer organization, etc).