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Just Use the Easy (Blue) Button

Do you ever wish you had a real-life Easy-Button at your command? Not just for the typical Staples situations like buying a laptop, filling an ink cartridge, or stocking up on office supplies — but for real life situations.

Many Americans’ expectation of government process is fairly low due to long lines at the DMV, filing taxes, or the drudgery of filling out government paperwork. Sometimes these tasks need to be done with care — but other times it’s just a cover for thick bureaucracy. Adam Dole, former Presidential Innovation Fellow, wants to give you an Easy-Button, or a Blue Button, to make your health care experience go smoothly.

Adam Dole told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program about how your healthcare process is about to get easier via government innovation.

“I’m addicted to helping organizations do new things that they might not be so comfortable doing in the first place,” said Dole. “The Presidential Fellow Program felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to become an entrepreneur in residence inside the federal government. Prior to me joining, I assumed that government was where entrepreneurs go to die; I couldn’t have been any further from the truth on that one.”

Dole was able to see the first class of entrepreneurs in residence before he dove into the role. This made his decision much easier when offered a position with the Mayo Clinic.

“I got an opportunity at the national level where the expectation is that it reaches every single person in our country; you don’t necessarily get that opportunity too often in a lifetime. As a Presidential Innovation Fellow on day one, your expectation is that whatever you do, it has to serve everybody in an equitable way,” said Dole.

Dole’s main focus has been working on the federal My Data Initiative.

“Obama issued an executive order a year ago that requires all government data available to the public to be made available in an open format where it’s human and machine readable,” said Dole.

It’s important for patients to understand their records during a time where we have an influx of data. The average person can’t comprehend all the fine print, but they need to know what medical assistance they need to acquire and the means of acquiring it. But the data must also be formatted where it can be shared among organizations.

“The My Data Initiative is really all about empowering people with access to their own information in a way that is not only human readable, so that you can actually consume this data, but machine readable, so that third party services and apps can be created that can take that data and actually make it meaningful and more actionable for people,” said Dole.

Blue Button is the health records component of the initiative. It started in the VA five to six years ago because they realized veterans were going outside the VA health system for care on occasion. The VA created a physical ‘blue button’ on patient portal so veterans could download, print, and bring records with them. In the past year, those with access to Blue Button have doubled.

Dole believes one important component is being severely underutilized. “The patient,” he said. “We need to figure out a way to enable patients to participate in a more meaningful active role in their care. Access is not enough. We need to make that data actionable for people in a way that fits their lifestyle.”

When patients see themselves as patients, they automatically become disempowered just by the nature of assistance. Dole’s program empowers patients not just when they possess their own records but when they can efficiently comprehend the system.

Startups often fold after just a few short months if they continue down the wrong path for too long. To combat this, many new companies create quick feedback loops for a more collaborative effort. But it’s still not a common practice in government today.

“In government, there are a ton of smart people that have amazing ideas. And the problem is that they’ve probably been told ‘no’ to a lot of those ideas so many times, that they forget that they have a good idea,” said Dole. “Out value wasn’t to come up with new ideas but identify which ones had promise and make them a reality.”

While it’s human nature to resist change we shouldn’t make it an organization’s nature. Employees generally perform better and feel more satisfied when given responsibility.

“When you can demonstrate that there’s ways to mitigate that risk, and then the upside that comes by giving people more empowerment to do more things that they, they want to do in their job,” said Dole.

Often, government innovation comes across as an oxymoron. But catalysts like Dole help to minimize risk while ameliorating current government struggles.

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