Improving Beneficiary Access to their Health Information through an Enhanced Blue Button Service

Implementing the re-design of the CMS Blue Button to Increase Data Access and Empower Beneficiaries 
Purpose & Goals
Achievements & Highlights
Related Projects
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
Start Date
  • 4/30/2016
  • Use of Enhanced Publically-Funded Data Systems for Research



STATUS: Completed Project


The current Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) Blue Button service was established in 2010 as a joint effort of CMS and the Veterans Administration and allows CMS beneficiaries to download their CMS information via CMS undertook a conceptual re‑design of Blue Button to be a “data‑as‑a‑service” platform. To implement this re‑design, CMS utilized the new HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard.


Utilizing the FHIR framework to ensure data is in a structured format that can be accepted by a wide range of applications, the Blue Button on FHIR (BBonFHIR) interface will put Medicare beneficiaries in control of connecting their data to third‑party applications and services they trust. In this model, beneficiaries are empowered to select participation in research based on their preferences (e.g., enrolling in a genetic cancer research study because of a familial history of cancer). This will dramatically simplify the acquisition of beneficiary claims data to support beneficiary participation in clinical research studies. Once complete, the BBonFHIR Service API will allow researchers to selectively pull beneficiaries’ Medicare part A, B, and D claims data specific for specific research needs.

The project objectives are to:

  • Develop the BBonFHIR service and publish the code on open source software.

  • Pilot the BBonFHIR service.

  • Publish a technical paper on CMS Blue Button Structure Data.

  • Launch full production of the BBonFHIR service.

  • Promote the availability of BBonFHIR to external sources.


  • The Blue Button API, Blue Button 2.0, has launched. Open source code has been published to the Blue Button Repositories on GitHub: A working prototype of the service was implemented in August 2016. Since April 2016, a prototype API with dummy data has been available. This data was replaced in December 2017 with de-identified synthetic data that represents 30,000 beneficiaries with realistic claims information. A pilot Code-a-thon was hosted in April 2016, and a report was delivered to ASPE in August 2016 for public posting. The team also participated in HL7 FHIR Connectathons in 2016 and 2017. 

  • A CMS Blue Button API developer sandbox environment was created using the front-end development system and backend sandbox server in the HHS IDEALab cloud. This developer preview was announced to developers at the HL7 Connect-a-thon as part of a consumer mediated exchange track at the event. The developer preview is open to all interested parties and can be accessed via the webpage at As of Apr 13, 2018, 240 organizations had joined the Developer Sandbox.

  • CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced the launch of Blue Button 2.0 during her keynote presentation at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference on March 6, 2018. Organizations are now able to request access to the production API, which will allow Medicare beneficiaries to connect their claims data to the health applications they choose to trust.



  • The CMS Blue Button API developer environment is open to all interested parties and can be accessed via the CMS webpage at


Below is a list of ASPE-funded PCORTF projects that are related to this project

  • Technologies for Donating Medicare Beneficiary Claims Data to Research Studies- This project aims to provide a safe and secure mechanism for Medicare beneficiaries to donate least three years of their individual Medicare claims data to scientific research studies. This project will allow researchers to collect longitudinal patient information from Medicare and to link data sets with other relevant information for NIH-led research. In addition, this project leverages current investments in federal data infrastructure to inform future infrastructure development—combining advances in Blue Button on FHIR (Blue Button 2.0) and S4S to enhance data collection by the All of Us initiative.