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ONC is sponsoring the Blue Button Plus Challenge — putting up some prize money to incentivize teams of developers to come up with solutions to the problem of getting patient data to patients. The first phase of the challenge is crowdsourcing ideas from patients about what problems need solving.

What health data do you wish you had easier access to? Click here: Tell the federales (and vote up your favorite projects) by June 11.

Patients will be able to vote on the applications built as part of the challenge come August (and of course teams including patients may participate in the challenge — volunteer to be a CoDesign Patient by sending an email to the address highlighted below).

More details:

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is excited to announce the Blue Button Co-Design Challenge. This is a Challenge like none we have ever done before. We want to amplify the voices of patients and regular people across the country that have stories to tell and problems that can be solved by this new access to their health data.

From June 3rd through June 11th, we are crowdsourcing and crowdvoting for the highest priority problems and types of products people need to take care of themselves and their family.  The top three will become the target products for this Challenge. Please submit your ideas and vote at our Challenge partner’s site,

Over the summer, developers from across the country will build these patient prioritized tools using the Blue Button Plus technical guidelines, which ensure that you can move your health data from your provider’s electronic health record or your own personal health record into these new products in a secure and structured way.  Developers will receive Co-Design support from real patients through the Health Tech Hatch platform.  (If you would like to participate as a CoDesign Patient, please send an email to

In August, you all will vote again for the winner. We are also awarding prizes for the best open source developer tools that make it easier for future applications to become Blue Button Plus enabled. Total prize money is over $50,000!

Follow the link for more information available on the Blue Button Plus challenge.

This challenge was announced at the Health Datapalooza in Washington DC this week. Some folks expressed frustration that Blue Button Plus is a one-way data pipe, saying that this protocol does not allow for patients to enter data in their own medical records. In fact, however, this is a technology that enables two-way communication; what someone does with the information once it arrives is a separate issue.  In any event, the opportunity is here for patient involvement in designing the mechanisms for accessing patient data. The fact that the federal government is asking for patient input in designing the challenge, and in designing solutions to meet the challenge is pretty revolutionary.

Have at it!

David Harlow is a health care lawyer and consultant at The Harlow Group LLC, and chairs the Society for Participatory Medicine’s public policy committee. His home blog is HealthBlawgYou should follow him on Twitter: @healthblawg


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