- CMS officials are touting increasing developer interest in Blue Button 2.0, with about 1,200 organizations now partnering with the agency to use Medicare claims data to create apps aimed at increasing patient engagement. Administrator Seema Verma tells MedTech Dive that 11 organizations of those have "production apps" in place using live data.
- Such applications can connect to three to four years of Medicare fee-for-service claims data that is updated with live information weekly if granted permission by enrollees. But fewer than 200 of Medicare's tens of millions of recipients are sharing live data and using the production applications, CMS officials said.
- Companies partaking in the Blue Button 2.0 effort include Google-backed Verily Life Sciences, Rush, Humetrix, Health Endeavors, Anthem, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 23andMe, Medware and 3K Technologies, according to CMS. It is unclear what groups have production applications.
Verma said that by providing apps that can improve medication adherence or remind patients to schedule or attend a doctor visit, patients will benefit more from their healthcare information.
But there is an open question of how quick uptake will be among the elderly. Verma argued that more and more tech-savvy Medicare beneficiaries are entering the program each day, but fewer than 200 people are currently using live Blue Button 2.0 applications.
Verma said the agency plans to promote the effort through "existing communication vehicles."
Senior CMS officials said that once companies go through a screening, the companies with production apps can connect to three to four years of Medicare fee-for-service claims data that is updated with live information weekly.
"Keep in mind we just released this data in March, and here we are mid-October and we already have 11 that are in production," Verma said. "We're going to see a lot more action. What we hope is that these app developers are going to be marketing directly to be beneficiary."
Verma said it is going to "take some time" for the program to ramp up, but she characterized it as one element of CMS efforts such as eMedicare and the MyHealthEData initiative to get data to patients.
"We're trying to prepare Medicare for a new wave of seniors that are coming into the program," Verma said. "Their expectations of the programs and the type of technology that they want to see is increasing."
The CMS chief also called out private insurers, saying that they have a role to play replicating the effort in private insurance to make data more readily accessible by patients.
Verma said she is tracking the Interoperability and Patient Access proposed rule currently pending at the Office of Management and Budget.
"We're hoping it comes out pretty soon, and I think once folks see that, it'll put our big picture on our commitment in intelligibility and giving patients control of their data, it will make that pretty clear," Verma said.
Data privacy is at top of mind for CMS, but one use of Blue Button 2.0 data is for patients to donate their data to researchers. Verily Life Sciences is currently the only research organization with a production app, but CMS is in conversations with the National Institutes of Health for potential data sharing, according to Verma. Beneficiaries must approve data-sharing with each organization individually.
"We've taken a lot of steps to make sure the beneficiary data is protected and they understand who they are giving their data to and what the ramifications are with that," Verma said.
CMS officials say they are close to making an announcement about the effort to bring on board a chief informatics officer who will focus on interoperability and the role CMS plays in sharing data in the health industry, but Verma said no one has been hired yet.