During our candid discussion, I asked Dr. Levin for his perspectives on the Blue Button initiative and the Developer Challenge, as well as the role of Health Information Technology as it relates to his vision of empowerment for V.A. consumers.
“Why isn’t there a button on your website that I can click to access my personal medical history? A little blue button.”
That simple question was posed to the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA), and proved to be the catalyst for significant improvements in the ways that a veteran can interact with his own health data.
VA developed that Blue Button in collaboration with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Department of Defense, along with the Markle Foundation’s Consumer Engagement Workgroup.
On August 2, 2010 President Obama announced the Blue Button initiative to thousands of applauding veterans, who stood to benefit from the ability to take ownership of their Personal Health Record (PHR), downloaded from the VA website with just a click.
. *Blue Button comments begin at 24:00
That defining moment, however, was not the end of the story. Since each veteran’s comprehensive record was to be downloaded as a plain ASCII text file, the Markle and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations issued the Blue Button Developer Challenge on behalf of the VA. The goal of the challenge was to spur the innovative development of web-based solutions, enabling Blue Button users to meaningfully interact with their health data in an even more useful way. Sharing that common goal, respondents to the challenge were diverse; ranging from start-up IT companies and individual developers to Google and Microsoft.
On October 7, 2010, Adobe was announced the winner of the Blue Button Developer Challenge.
As the team lead, I had the privilege of receiving the award on Adobe’s behalf at the fourth annual Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco from a distinguished panel featuring Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Peter Levin,Chief Technology Officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Also, I had the opportunity to deliver a presentation, highlighting key features of Blue Button Health Assistant, Adobe’s innovative solution that combines the intuitive real-time interface of Adobe AIR technology with the benefits of the secure, auditable, and ubiquitous PDF format (leveraging PDF-Healthcare Best Practices) regardless of the user’s platform, browser, or device.
Certified PDF screenshot
These benefits resonated well with the discerning team of technology powerhouses who served as judges, including Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark; Assistant Vice President of the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Steve Downs; Consumers Union health policy expert Steve Findlay; and personal health records pioneer Dr. James Ralston of Group Health Cooperative. Submissions were evaluated on the following key criteria:
Usefulness to patients in helping them stay healthy or manage their care.
Potential to impact health and well-being by addressing high-priority health goals.
Platform neutral (can be accessed by a consumer with simple web browser).
Usability / ease of use.
As a veteran myself, it was particularly rewarding to be a part of Team Adobe throughout this incredible process. But this story, and others like it, continues on as Adobe identifies and develops more ways to leverage Open Government as more than just a concept, but rather a tool to advance agency missions.
The inaugural GovFresh event this Wednesday offered a compelling glimpse at how to deliver on the open government promise. After the event, we had a chance to chat with number of the event’s speakers and then pull their perspectives together into a short clip. This clip highlights how government innovators and entrepreneurs are leveraging open government to drive environmental stewardship, advance public safety, speed public service, and foster innovation. See the video below.
Overall, the event offered insight from both sides of open government equation: innovators and citizens using government information and governments making data available. For those on the government side, you might also find the event’s Q&A particularly valuable (see the event replay starting at 1:01:50). Many agencies are still struggling to define their open government strategy and allocate resources in order to make information easy to find, use, and trust for the public. In the Q&A Chris Vein, San Francisco’s CIO, offers a perspective based on their experience overcoming many of the tricky practical issues governments are dealing with when it comes to opening up government data.
Last night, GovFresh and Adobe hosted 200 attendees at the inaugural GovFresh event, sf.govfresh. The event was also live broadcast over Adobe Connect for those who couldn’t join the event in person. A replay of the broadcast is now available.
The July/August issue of Harvard Business Review features the article titled “Empowered,” by Josh Bernoff and Ted Shadler – a great read on how some leading companies are empowering their employees to use social technologies to interact with customers and help solve their problems. One of the highlighted use cases is the U.S. State Department, which used Adobe Connect to create Co.Nx (pronounced “connex”) for presenting webchats with speakers ranging from President Obama, to the upcoming webchat with Curt Onalfo, head coach of D.C. United. With a strong presence on Facebook, Co.Nx has more than 100,000 fans and its webchats are viewed by tens of thousands throughout the world.
Read more about some of the cool ways companies are using Adobe Connect to connect with their employees and customers here.
Many government agencies are looking at ways to innovate with social media to increase transparency and participation between staff and the community. As I’ve expressed in the past through this blog and at various conferences, the real opportunity for public sector is to understand the characteristics of social media that make it so engaging and collaborative and infuse it into the core operations of government whether that is to deliver services, collect revenue or inform citizens.
One lesson from social media is the immediacy and richness of information that can be shared through digital channels. Blogs, online video sharing platforms and Twitter have demonstrated the power and desire by the public to share information quickly and easily.
In case you missed it, GovTech and Adobe recently ran an eSeminar highlighting how government agencies are attacking the transparency challenge by providing key information to the public through some pretty engaging experiences. The recording is available here.
The presenters share specific examples of government websites and review how three departments have used Adobe technologies to make their sites more engaging. Examples include:
Sorry, but who can resist the cliche when you think of NASA? Bad jokes aside, I would love to call your attention to my latest discovery in my quest to highlight open government at work. A group of scientists from NASA’s Astrobiology Institute (NAI) came together to participate and collaborate in an event called the “Workshop Without Walls”.
The article offers some great insights from the participants and the organizers.
What I found to be most interesting is the comment from George Cody, co-organizer of the event, that he “actually came to be unaware of the conference as being at multiple venues.” Especially when considering ways to encourage and foster participation and collaboration, leveraging an “enabling technology” that fades into the background is ideal!
To often, collaboration technologies themselves become the center of attention, more often than not, in a “less than positive” way. Here are a couple things to consider:
Collaboration is for and about people – technology simply enables the experience
Becoming a participant should not require a great deal of effort
Eliminate burdensome downloads or installs, it should leverage tools they already have
It should work the way people work, it should not require training to use
It should go to where the people are, device, network, and platform independent
Knocking down these typical technology barriers can and will have a significant impact on the adoption and success of your program or event.
The IRS gets top marks for the speed of their website in recently released benchmarks (see coverage here). The IRS website minimizes image use and makes large documents available as PDF downloads rather than publishing the information as web pages. The ranking of sites was released by performance monitoring service, Gomez, as part of their annual benchmarking of major website responsiveness (see the full report). The results are summarized in their chart below:
Despite contemporary wisdom that traditional journalism is in decline, the 150+ year-old publication known as The Atlantic hasn’t lost its edge for writing substantive and thoughtful news commentary. I love this month’s article, Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead, where Joshua Green argues that the Grateful Dead pioneered Internet business models before there was an Internet.