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Humetrix and Intel team up on mobile Blue Button app

Given the success of the VA’s Blue Button program, it was only a matter of time before it went mobile.

With the goal of making Blue Button even more convenient, Humetrix recently announced it is working with Intel to demonstrate the new release of its iBlueButton® mobile apps for Intel® Atom™-based Android phones at the HIMSS13 conference and exhibition that has just begun in New Orleans.

According to the company, this latest release of iBlueButton means that consumers who use Intel-based Android smartphones – and soon Intel-powered Android tablets – will be able to securely exchange their medical records with physicians at the point of care, device-to-device, as a way to improve the safety and efficacy of care.

As Mark Blatt, MD, worldwide medical director, sales and marketing group, Intel, put it at the time of the announcement, “Next-generation healthcare delivery requires innovations like the iBlueButton platform, which we are pleased to show on Intel-based Android phones and, later in the year, Intel-based Android tablets. It is designed to allow patients to directly and efficiently access and share their personal health records with their providers using a secure and standardized method.”

iBlueButton is available for iPhone®, iPad® and Android® devices.

In the same announcement, Bettina Experton, MD, President and CEO of Humetrix and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the University of California San Diego, observed that “iBlueButton’s cross-platform iOS/Android capability lets physicians and patients share medical records and other critical information to improve patient safety and reduce wasteful procedures regardless of whether they use an Android or Apple device.”

The companies’ “dual app system” consists of both a consumer app for iOS or Android smartphones and tablet computers, and the iBlueButton Professional app for physicians, which runs on a tablet. This platform enables the direct and secure transmission of Blue Button and other health records from the patient’s device to their physician’s device.

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Did policymakers choose the wrong path?

How’s that country song go?  “Looking for love in all the wrong places”?

If you don’t mind us channeling our inner Waylon Jennings, that’s what came to mind when we read an article about one health IT observer, who has argued that “Healthcare quality and efficiency could move forward 20 years in a matter of months if only there were true interoperability of electronic health information.”

A matter of months, eh?  It’s an interesting proposition, and while we’re in no position to make such a bold claim, we’ll admit that we have wondered fairly frequently if policymakers didn’t charge off a bit prematurely with the HITECH incentive program.

After all, it’s no secret that interoperability, or the lack thereof, remains a real problem when it comes to the spread of EHRs.  So why not solve that problem first and then push providers across the digital frontier?

During last week’s American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) annual conference in Chicago, the observer, sociologist Ross Koppel of the University of Pennsylvania, argued that “While the goals of Meaningful Use — to improve the safety and efficiency of healthcare delivery — may be noble,  . . .policymakers have been too focused on EHR features and not enough on usability.”

Had policymakers paid more attention to usability, Koppel said, including interoperability and data standards, they may “have seen how health IT has been burdened by too many standards and not enough cooperation among competing technology vendors and healthcare providers.”

For example, Koppel “said that there are about 40 different ways to record blood pressure in EHRs. At least from an informatics standpoint, perhaps three of those ways are ‘proper.’”

So what of it?  It’s an academic question, no doubt, given how far down the road we’ve gone with HITECH.  But it seems worth asking whether we should have solved interoperability first, then promoted the implementation of EHRs. 

At the very least, by looking backwards at what perhaps should have been done, we might be able to hone in on what should be done now.

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Arizona county jail to deploy EMR system

Maricopa County officials will spend $10 million to implement an EMR system, which will help document and manage medical data for its thousands of jail inmates. The county has tied EMR capabilities to efficiency and better clinical outcomes. This is a good story to inspire other jail and prison systems, and healthcare providers that are still on the fence about EMRs.

In Maricopa County, inmates died because of mismanagement of health data. Millions of dollars were paid out in settlements. The Correctional Health Services lost its accreditation, which would have helped protect the county from lawsuits, after three years on probation for not meeting national healthcare standards. It sounds like a vicious circle.

Interestingly, consultants to the Board of Supervisors and Correctional Health Services (CHS) recommended an EMR, as did a federal judge. The money for the EMR system is already there in the form of a voter-approved jail tax. Why the supervisors did’’t act on the recommendations is a mystery. They signed a contract in 2007 to buy a $5 million, actually paid out about $218,000 but still didn’t follow through. Do the math: $10 million upfront investment versus $13 million dollars in lawsuit costs and loss of accreditation, and dozens more lawsuits pending. It took an angry judge’s order to light a fire under the supervisors to get going on the purchase and implementation.

The CHS director said that while they weren’t expecting the EMR system to be a “silver bullet,” it would help manage such things as their movement and whether or not they had their medication. It’s helpful that CHS is going into the process with realistic expectations. While it will take another six months before the budget is approved and the vendor is selected, it’s a step in the right direction to fix the problem once and for all. What’s happening in Maricopa County could be a lesson for other county jails.

How is the healthcare delivery in your county? I’d be interested to know if the problems Maricopa County is facing is the same in county jails across the country. Does your county jail have an EMR system for its inmates? If so, how is it working?