Tuesday, October 03, 2017

#BlueButton API Developer Preview @health2con

I am at the Health2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, CA. The conference is in it’s 11th year and is one of the premier events to discover cutting edge health technology solutions.

I was here to present at the Dev Day pre-conference event with my colleague and co-conspirator, Alan Viars. For the last year Alan and I have been building the front-end system for the CMS Blue Button API morning (BBAPI) platform.

At the conference we have met with numerous developers that are eager to build applications that will help Medicare beneficiaries by putting their claims information to use to help with their health, or to help support research. Building an API server is really the easy part. Building an API that supports a thriving ecosystem of applications and health solutions is the real challenge. Accomplishing that feat while complying with all the necessary privacy, security and regulatory controls that apply to government solutions adds another level of complexity.

As I have talked with some leading strategists and entrepreneurs while at the conference I have been encouraged to put something on digital paper that helps to tie together all of the threads involved in delivering the BlueButton API for CMS in a way that benefits Medicare beneficiaries, the health innovation community and consumer/patients everywhere.

A Consistent Vision For The Blue Button API

From the outset the vision for this project has been to…

“build a developer-friendly, standards-based data API that enables Medicare Beneficiaries to share their data with the applications, services or research programs they trust.”

Timing Is Everything

BBAPI has had the benefit of “building on the shoulders of giants.” In the past few years the health care industry has embraced APIs. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has done great work to promote this transformation. At the same time a vibrant community has sprung up around HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources specification (FHIR). BBAPI is taking advantage of this emerging standard.

BBAPI will be publishing Medicare claims information under the control of the individual beneficiary using the FHIR specification.

Access to these FHIR resources will require registered third-party applications (TPAs) to be authorized by the beneficiary. That authorization is handled by the OAuth 2.0 protocol. The process of enabling TPAs raised another challenge for the BBAPI team: how do we review applications that are requesting access to BBAPI?

To solve the application access issue the BBAPI team put forward a standard protocol we call POET (Pre-OAuth Entity Trust api – http://2.healthca.mp/2xfj1TQ ).

The objective is to encourage a network of endorsing bodies to spring up that can review and verify applications and use POET to express the results of their review/endorsement using a verifiable software statement that could be presented to data holders, like CMS and the BBAPI.

The idea of a verifiable software statement is fully in line with initiatives from The CARIN Alliance ( http://2.healthca.mp/2wwEZSR ) to promote interoperability. POET is a method for expressing the result of a policy assessment in a portable manner. This can help simplify the process involved in TPAs gaining access to data APIs.

Where are we with Blue Button API?

At Health2.0 we launched the Develop Preview. You can get more information here:


Follow the link to register as a developer on our Preview platform.

The developer platform can be accessed at http://2.healthca.mp/2xfgZmr

Currently the API holds a set of fake data. At this stage the API can be used to test the handshake with using the OAuth 2.0 protocol. To help you test this handshake we have created a sample client application. The python-django client application can be download here: http://2.healthca.mp/2xfiIbm

In November we plan to replace the fake data set with a synthetic dataset. This will enable Developers to begin to create applications that mash-up Medicare claims information with other data sources.

In 2018 we expect to integrate a connection with MyMedicare.gov that will allow Medicare beneficiaries to use their existing userid and password to authenticate on The BBAPI platform. This will be a major step towards releasing The BBAPI platform to beneficiaries.

Our roadmap also includes adding features to the BBAPI platform. Features such as:

  • Adding paging to the rest api. This is helpful for large bundles of ExplanationOfBenefit resource records
  • Adding additional search terms to target resources. This will enable searches such as for claims within a range of dates

  • implementing the CMS design system ( http://2.healthca.mp/2xg58oo ) to provide Section 508 compliance in the User Interfaces.

In 2018 we will also move the BBAPI to a new home on a .gov domain.

What Can You Do?

If you are a developer you can join the Developer Preview program.  You can also give us feedback. We have established a Google group to enable us to communicate with developers. You can join the google group here: http://2.healthca.mp/2wwDkg4

All of the software used in the BBAPI is based on Open Source. You can check out more open source software at http://2.healthca.mp/2xfoudj.

[category News, Health, Health2]

[tag health, cloud, ONC, opendata, blue button, Health2.0]

Mark Scrimshire

Health & Cloud Technology Consultant

Mark is available for challenging assignments at the intersection of Health and Technology using Big Data, Mobile and Cloud Technologies. If you need help to move, or create, your health applications in the cloud let’s talk.

Blog: http://2.healthca.mp/1b61Q7M

email: mark@ekivemark.com

Stay up-to-date: Twitter @ekivemark


I am currently HHS Entrepreneur-in-Residence and CMS BlueButton Innovator working on an assignment to update BlueButton for Medicare Beneficiaries. http://go.cms.gov/bluebutton

The views expressed on this blog are my own.

I am also a Patient Engagement Advisor, CTO and Co-Founder to Medyear.com. Medyear is a powerful tool that helps you collect, organize and securely share health information, however you want. Manage your own health records today.

Medyear: Less Hassle, Better Care.

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