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Blue Button a great holiday gift

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Posted: 10 am ET

Looking for a great holiday gift for your 65-plus mom and dad, retired veteran, or other "prime-time" friend or relative? This year, donate your time to pump up their health insurance preparedness by helping them download and become familiar with a great little tool called the Blue Button.

In 2010, President Barack Obama announced the Blue Button capability, which enables Medicare recipients and veterans to access, download and store their personal health records onto their computer, tablet, smartphone, USB flash drive or other mobile devices.

Having three years of health records at one's fingertips may be the best holiday gift ever. Not only will Mom and Dad be able to access information on their current doctors, diagnosed conditions, lab tests and medications at the push of a button, but you and other loved ones will be able to do likewise in an emergency.

Dr. Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator for health information technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is no longer merely an advocate of Blue Button. Following a recent family emergency, he's become a self-described zealot.

"On Thanksgiving, I helped my dad get his Blue Button, and on the Friday after Thanksgiving, he had an ophthalmology emergency and unexpectedly had to go to a new ophthalmologist hundreds of miles away because his regular ophthalmologist was closed for Thanksgiving," Dr. Mostashari says. "So he goes to this new ophthalmologist who has never seen him and says, 'Here is my information.' It told the new ophthalmologist what procedures he'd had done, what the diagnosis was, who the doctor was and all that information.

"One of the reasons why I'm even more of a believer than I was even a month ago is, seeing is believing. The personal experience of seeing my parents have access to their own data and for me to be able to help them with it has made me a viral agent, telling everyone I meet," he told me. "I promise you, when you have a similar experience, you will do the same."

Veterans can download Blue Button from their My HealtheVet account on the Department of Veterans Affairs website, VA.gov. The VA version even allows users to self-enter such personal health indicators as blood pressure, weight and heart rate, as well as emergency contact information, test results, family health history, military health history and other health-related information.

Medicare recipients can download their Blue Button data using their Medicare ID card at MyMedicare.gov.

This year, give the whole family peace of mind, and download the amazing, free Blue Button.

Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus.

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