arrow_back Back to blog

Unlocking Medicare data for Project Baseline

| Written by:

Grace Farley

Health Economics Program Manager, Verily

Getting ahold of medical records can be an uphill battle—often you receive information in the form of faxes and CDs. In a world where digital technology is ubiquitous and central to our everyday lives, access to medical information lags years behind. The systems that hold your medical history also provide challenges; they vary based on which hospital or doctor you visit and often don't allow for data to be shared from one to the other. The ability to connect health data between systems is called "interoperability" and is a priority for the healthcare industry today.

At Verily and Project Baseline, we're focusing on how we can better collect and organize complex health information for research while empowering our participants to access and understand their own health data. We're excited that a government initiative now provides us the ability to give Project Baseline participants the option to share their Medicare claims data with the study.

Medicare is a national health insurance program that provides health insurance to 58.5 million Americans. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the United States Digital Service recently developed Blue Button 2.0, an application programming interface (or API) that enables Medicare beneficiaries to share their Medicare claims data with healthcare professionals, applications, and research programs they trust. This is a novel achievement and benefits many Medicare beneficiaries by giving them access and control over their health information. As the world's largest payer, Medicare has the ability to help transform data-sharing in healthcare. Empowering greater access to medical data enables individuals to play a more active role in self-care, and expands the potential for research.

Project Baseline's mission is to map human health. An important component of this is the ability to access historical health data. Project Baseline plans to collect data over four years, but getting data from prior years will create a broader dataset from which we hope to identify trends or indicators in the transition from health to disease.

So how does Blue Button 2.0 work? We developed tools to allow our participants who have Medicare as their primary form of health insurance to share their claims data with us through the Project Baseline participant portal. We explain to participants how they can access their portal account and choose to share their claims data. The Blue Button API enables data to flow into the Project Baseline platform electronically. The process is seamless, and it takes participants less than a few minutes to connect and share their health data swiftly.

We are proud to surface Blue Button 2.0 to Project Baseline participants and unleash the value of historic Medicare claims data to help us understand the full spectrum of their health history. We look forward to exploring other exciting initiatives in the health data interoperability space and sharing them with our participants.

Next story: Baseline Sudoku: What do puzzles and computational biology share in common?

If you're an avid fan of number and logic puzzles, you've probably heard of Dr. Sudoku.