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So, on June 3, 2013, Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator for Health IT, announced from the stage at Health Datapalooza that the Blue Button Patient Codesign Challenge was asking patients and caregivers for their ideas about how they want their healthcare data used. He urged everyone to go to where they could post ideas and vote for their favorites. Since then (a bit more than a week), there have been almost 3500 visits to the site and more than 1100 people actively using the site. There have been 75 ideas posted.  And, there are still 3 days to add more (go to

It seems to me there is some pent-up demand for patients to have a say in their own healthcare.

What is the Blue Button anyway?

According to the Blue Button website,

“Blue Button” is a way for you to get easy, secure online access to your health information. To “Blue Button” means you can “download your health data” so you can use it to improve your health and be more engaged in your healthcare. As Americans, we each have the legal right to access our own health information held by doctors, hospitals and others that provide health care services for us. But many of us don’t, either because we don’t know we can, or because we’re not sure what to do with our health information once we have it. Until recently, most medical information was stored in paper files, so it wasn’t very easy to access or use anyhow. But all that is changing as more health care providers (doctors and hospitals) adopt electronic health record systems and other health information technology (health IT). Patients will have more opportunities to get access to their health records electronically and to engage with their clinical teams about their medical records.

The Blue Button Challenge is aimed at creating new tools to make that information more useful to you.  The aim is to turn ordinary information into actionable information.  Instead of just seeing my annual fasting glucose levels for the last five years, I could have an app that tells me what to do if it starts to creep up into a worrisome range.


The Crowdsourced Ideas

The most popular idea on the page (1,096 votes so far) is

Build me a Blue Button-enabled tool that brings together data from my medical device with my other health data.  

It was posted by Hugo Campos, an empowered patient known for his efforts to get the raw data from the his implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).  Here is how he describes his idea:

This would help me and people with other medical devices to identify and prevent potential triggers of cardiac arrhythmias and other critical events. It’s a tragedy when information exists that could have been used to prevent a problem, but extraordinary when it is used to improve outcomes. Such an app would give users of medical devices unprecedented access and insight into their health. Give us our data so we can take better care of ourselves and our families.

The next most popular idea with 474 votes to date was posted by Catherine Rose:

Build me a Blue Button-enabled tool that simplifies Care for Multiple Chronic Conditions

She goes on to explain:

Manages my daughter’s chronic conditions, therapists, specialists, prescriptions and appointments. My daughter has defects in almost all organ systems and we see 18 different specialists, she has 6 different therapists, she has multitude of prescriptions and must-use medical equipment for breathing while she sleeps. We need a way to keep the hospital, her school team, her therapy team and us – all on the same page regarding her care. It takes heroic efforts now, but it could be greatly simplified!

One I particularly like is Build me a Blue Button-enabled tool that fixes the pattern of failed New Year’s resolutions, posted by Cynthia Calmenson.  She wants an app that will help her identify and track her successful small steps to keep healthy because “research shows that tiny steps breed success and most people fail because their steps are too big.”

There’s still time for you to add your great idea and/or vote for your favorites.  Go to between now and June 14.

If you want to learn more about the Blue Button Patient Codesign Challenge, here are some videos produced by



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