TEDMED is a multi-disciplinary community of innovators and leaders who share a common goal of creating a better future in health and medicine.
iMedicalApps was at its latest iteration. Among the many things that we saw at TEDMED 2013, one thing that really caught our eye was iBlueButton, an app and service that was on display in the exhibition area.
iBlueButton is developed by Humetrix, an Information Technology (IT) company that uses smart portable devices (USB flash drives, smart cards or smartphones), to offer patient-centered, individually controlled connectivity and interoperability solutions to the health care environment.
While at TEDMED, we had the pleasure to meet and talk with Dr. Bettina Experton, founder and CEO of Humetrix about their app.
Some of our readers might be familiar with Blue Button, the platform that allows patients to view and download their own personal health records. We briefly described iBlueButton after they came in first in the Blue Button Mash-up Challenge. This technology is in use at the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs as well as Medicare and Medicaid.
Data from Blue Button-enabled sites can be used to create portable medical histories that facilitate dialog among health care providers. However, such data is downloaded as a text file that’s hardly easy to read by humans. That’s where iBlueButton comes in.
The patient can use iBlueButton to connect and download their health records to their smartphone; the app itself parses the information and organizes it in a visual-friendly manner. What is the value of this technology for physicians? As Dr. Experton put it,
“Most Medicare patients usually see between 7 or 8 health providers per year on average and because of the lack of connectivity between individual EMRs, that means 7 or 8 different separate records for that same patient. The prime value of iBlueButton is that physicians get a complete useful history of their patients when they come as they get the information straight from the source.”
iBlueButton displays records of medications, visits and past surgeries. Everything is there for us to see at a glance. We even get suggested screening tests depending on our patient’s risk factors. Tapping on a medication shows a brief description of that drug from the National Institutes of Health’s Web Medline Plus.
The patient can also annotate whether they are experiencing any side effects from that drug or if they no longer take it. Patients can attach any kind of files to their health record and the app can also use the smartphone’s camera to take pictures.
Whenever we are dealing with medical information, privacy and security becomes an issue. Naturally, we asked Dr. Experton about this. She responded, “Since all of the patient information is stored inside the app, the medical records are only accessible through a password that uses the same type of encryption technology the military uses.”
As an added security measure, iBlueButton health records can only be shared in person and cannot be sent via e-mail. During a visit, QR codes can be generated so that patients share their chart with their physician; the QR code works as a record locator and encryption key so the information remains protected during this transmission.
iBlueButton is available for both Android and iOS. The app comes in two versions, a patient-facing app and a physician app dubbed iBlueButton Pro. While the apps themselves are free, the service is charged on the amount of downloaded records.
Physicians can use iBlueButton for free for up to 3 patients or can pay the full price of $39.99 for the app. Patients have 1 free download and can purchase packs of 5 downloads for $1.99 or 25 downloads for $7.99. Patients get record download credits every time they share their records with a physician. There is also a Veteran version of the app for free.
We found iBlueButton to be a very innovative application of mobile technology and we hope to see more initiatives like this appear as time goes by. In the words of Dr. Experton,
“A paradigm shift is happening in healthcare where patients are no longer passive healthcare recipients but rather direct agents of change in control of the information flow and it is them who play a critical role in care decisions to make a more cost-effective healthcare.”