Blue Button API

Accessing your Medicare claims data is about to get a whole lot easier. Last year the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) tapped the Digital Service at HHS to work alongside CMS in building an API that empowers Medicare beneficiaries to grant third-party developers access to their claims data. Today at HIMSS 2018, CMS will be launching Blue Button 2.0 — an API. Blue Button makes it easier for millions of Medicare beneficiaries, and those who support them, to access their health information from the web and mobile devices.

by Shannon Sartin

CMS Blue Button 2.0 is the next iteration of the Blue Button service, established in 2010 as a joint effort between CMS and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Over one million Medicare beneficiaries have used Blue Button to download their claims data. Prior to our involvement, Medicare beneficiaries downloaded claims data as a PDF or plaintext file via the MyMedicare.gov portal. Now with the Blue Button API, Medicare beneficiaries can also connect this information with applications, services, and research programs they trust.

Blue Button API contains four years of Medicare Part A, B and D data for 53 million Medicare beneficiaries. This data reveals a variety of information about a Medicare beneficiary’s health, including type of Medicare coverage, drug prescriptions, care treatment and cost. We decided to use the HL7 FHIR standard for beneficiary data and the OAuth 2.0 standard for beneficiary authorization. Medicare beneficiaries have full control over how their data is used, and by whom — with identity and authorization controlled by MyMedicare.gov.

Blue Button API adds new value for Medicare beneficiaries, providers, care organizations and health applications. It supports various use cases in the areas of healthcare and life sciences. More specifically, Blue Button reduces patient burden, streamlines comprehensive longitudinal health information, and uncovers new insights about patient care. For example, our API enables pharmacies to determine if a beneficiary gets healthier over time due to medication adherence. Additionally, Blue Button can give primary care physicians access to information on other patient care to inform better treatment. Through modern technology, Medicare claims data is, for the first time, linked to an abundant, ever-growing ecosystem of health applications and services.

CMS is currently running the Blue Button 2.0 API Developer Preview, a program that enables developers to register an application and build integrations with their software using Blue Button claims data. Over 100 organizations, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to EHRs to healthcare startups, have participated in the Developer Preview. Companies actively building integrations with Blue Button 2.0 include 23andMe, Verily Life Sciences (Google), TechStars Health portfolio companies, PillPack and many more.

To learn more about the CMS Blue Button 2.0, go to https://bluebutton.cms.gov.


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