February 11, 2014 | Anthony Brino, Associate Editor
Following newly guaranteed patient access to their lab tests, the country’s largest pharmacies are promising to adopt a simple consumer health technology tool: the Blue Button personal health record.
Walgreens, Kroger, CVS, Rite Aid, Safeway and pharmacies with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores are pledging to start standardizing patient prescription information within the next year to accommodate applications and services using the Blue Button.
“These steps will help patients access their prescription information and further empower millions of Americans to better manage their healthcare,” U.S. deputy CTO Nick Sinai and and HHS Presidential Innovation Fellow Adam Dole wrote on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy blog.
Sinai and Dole argue that the new commitment from the pharmacies — some of them, like CVS, increasingly being a place for basic health services — will “fuel the growth” of Blue Button technologies and ultimately make it easier for more Americans to navigate their healthcare.
HHS and the ONC have been working with private and public sector organizations for several years now trying to popularize the Blue Button PHR, which evolved out of the Department of Veterans Affairs and was dubbed perhaps simplest, most promising consumer empowerment tool by former national coordinator Farzad Mostashari, MD.
More and more hospitals and physicians offices are working with Blue Button+ standards, which make it easier to share the records, and a “vast majority” will be doing so year as part of the personal health record requirements in second phase of meaningful use, Sinai and Dole said.
The pharmacies committing to the Blue Button expansion are in various stages offering personal health record technology, some already offering consumers their medication history and others just getting started.
Walgreens currently offers customers a view and download of their prescription history from a Blue Button-branded online portal and will adopt the BlueButton+ guidelines.
Kroger, a supermarket chain with a large presence in the Midwest and South, already offers about half of its pharmacy customers access to their Rx records in an online portal. As part of the new commitment, Kroger will be extending the portal to the rest of its stores, letting customers download a copy of their records and possibly offering them machine-readable records that can integrate with other apps.
CVS Caremark, now notable for abandoning tobacco sales, has been offering customers their medication list and Rx history online for download for some time, as has Rite Aid, with its own online portal.
Safeway, one of the newer members of the Blue Button community, will be catching up with some its peers in offering customers online access to their prescription data. Likewise for 41,000 pharmacies in the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
See more on the Blue Button: