In January 2010 the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) were invited to attend a meeting with the Markle Consumer Engagement Workgroup. Discussion at the face-to-face meeting focused on how best to provide consumers with electronic access to data and to incent market innovators to create health information technology solutions using the data, to expand its usefulness for individuals. The workgroup expressed a strong desire for CMS and VA as “data holders” to participate in follow up discussions on the breakthrough idea of a download button (i.e. a “blue button” in the portal) that would enable individuals to download their electronic health data. Subsequent discussions on the potential for a demonstration project included a request for the creation and public availability of sample data sets from CMS and VA as a way to 1) advance understanding of the available data and 2) to begin to enable the identification and development of applications using the data to support consumer engagement.

Currently, Medicare beneficiaries can access their claims data on, and can add personal information into that site as well. They can then create and print a report called the “On-the-Go report” to share with their caregivers and providers. At this time, beneficiaries cannot download their own data into their own computers. CMS is interested in enabling beneficiaries to use their data with other health management tools, and may be conducting a project called “the BlueButton” through which beneficiaries can test their computer’s ability to download their claims information in a simple file format, which can then be uploaded into a unique Personal Health Record application of their choice.
Today Veterans can create and maintain a web-based Personal Health Record (PHR) with VA’s My HealtheVet. My HealtheVet is intended to improve the delivery of health care services to Veterans, to promote health and wellness, and to engage Veterans as more active participants in their health care. The My HealtheVet portal enables Veterans to create and maintain a web-based PHR that provides access to patient health education information and resources, a comprehensive personal health journal, and electronic services such as online VA prescription refill requests and secure messaging.  Veterans can visit the My HealtheVet website and self-register to create an account, although registration is not required to view the professionally-sponsored health education resources, including topics of special interest to the Veteran population. Once registered, Veterans can create a customized PHR that is accessible from any computer with Internet access.

On May 10, 2010, CMS and VA co-hosted a web-based meeting on increasing consumer access to data through the use of Personal Health Record (PHR) applications. CMS and VA are working together because of our mutual interest in improving services to constituents, including PHR-related services. This meeting was intended as a dialogue and exchange of ideas to foster innovation, not just for CMS and VA beneficiaries, but also as an exercise for the PHR industry to gain experience in using data from external entities. We hope this meeting will support industry innovation and enable industry stakeholders to provide feedback for future initiatives to better serve citizens. Interested parties learned about the sample data sets available to test PHR functionality and related health information technology applications and services.  To access the sample data files, go to the Related Links Inside CMS section below.  This is part of the government’s ongoing efforts to support ehealth initiatives and open government principles.