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My Data: Empowering All Americans with Personal Data Access

Summary: Consumers empowered with their own data are in the driver’s seat to make informed choices.

In the 21st century economy, Americans rely on online services to access personal bank accounts, pay bills, and shop online, so why don’t we have similar interactions with Federal government through easy-to-use, online tools? The answer is we can—and increasingly we are—as we continue to build a 21st century government.

Since first taking office, President Obama has been committed to building a more open and transparent government while, at the same time, protecting consumers and empowering them to make informed choices for themselves and their families. As technology advances and integrates into nearly every aspect of our lives, a wealth of personal data is being created. This data can help people live healthier, better manage their finances, and gain control of their energy consumption, yet consumers often struggle to get access to their own information.

Recognizing this opportunity, the President launched a series of My Data initiatives beginning in 2010 to ensure all Americans have easy and secure access to their own personal data, whether related to health, energy, finance, or education. When consumers are empowered with their own data, they are in the driver’s seat to make informed choices.

“Because we want every American ultimately to be able to securely access and analyze their own health data, so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and for their families.” – President Obama, January 30, 2015

My Data initiatives raise the bar for both public and private organizations, empowering consumers through public-private data interoperability, security, and access. Working together, the Federal government and private sector have made considerable progress opening data for individuals. For example, Blue Button, a My Data healthcare initiative, works with public and private sector organizations to expand patients’ access to their medical records online so they can track their health, correct errors, be more effective caregivers, and better facilitate health information sharing between doctors, specialists, and their family. Green Button, a My Data energy initiative, is helping Americans access their detailed household or building electricity usage from their utilities online, facilitating virtual energy audits to identify inefficiencies and save money for both residential and commercial customers.

Three ads for Blue Button, a My Data healthcare initiative that works with public and private sector organizations to expand patients’ access to their medical records online.

My Data initiatives have accomplished a lot for the American people, including:

  • ​More than three million veterans, service members, and Medicare beneficiaries have now accessed their personal health data from their government more than 46 million times.
  • An estimated 150 million Americans now have the ability to access their health records online from health professionals, medical laboratories, retail pharmacy chains, and state immunization registries. In fact, a majority of healthcare providers are now providing access to health information online. More than 16,000 healthcare organizations and providers are now listed on the Blue Button Connector, a tool to help patients and consumers access their health records online.
  • More than 150 utilities and electricity suppliers have committed to providing more than 60 million homes and businesses Green Button. This data allows commercial properties and homeowners to understand their energy consumption patterns and make smarter decisions about usage, which translates into cost savings and a cleaner environment.
Energy leaders and innovators gathered for a Green Button event in San Diego to share best practices and identify new applications, tools, and services that aim to help homeowners and businesses save energy and money.
  • Any American who signs up for a free online “my Social Security” account can now download a copy of their Social Security benefit statement, which they can then choose to share with a financial advisor or use in software that helps them better plan financially for their retirement.
  • Millions of students and parents are using MyStudentData and FAFSA.gov data each year to access to their Federal student loan balance, grant, enrollment, and overpayment information, helping them understand their choices for paying off student debt or choosing where to attend school.

As we make progress, there’s still much to do to ensure access for all. For example, efforts like the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative will promote access to personal health data and allow patients to contribute their data to scientific research, revolutionizing how we improve health and treat disease. In February 2016 at the Precision Medicine Initiative Summit hosted by the President at the White House, six of the major electronic health record vendors announced that they will pilot the use of standard ways (e.g., application programming interfaces, or “APIs”) for individuals to access and contribute their data to research. You will soon be able to use these tools to participate in the National Institutes of Health’s Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort, once launched.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has long been a partner with agencies in helping them accomplish their mission as it relates to data. For example, GSA manages Data.gov for government open data and consults with agencies on relevant lessons learned and best practices for data management. In response to the 2016 priority on My Data, GSA is taking a leadership role to assist Federal agencies with responsibly managing data to benefit all Americans.

GSA, with the help of its digital services consultancy 18F, is developing a next generation identity and authentication service, which will be managed centrally at the agency. Following a successful yearlong pilot of Connect.gov, this new service will be a valuable tool for My Data, helping enhance security and privacy by: securely connecting people to online government services and applications; allowing individuals to sign-on only once for access to multiple Federal websites or services; and eliminating the need to maintain multiple logins for government agencies. The U.S. government continues to get smarter around data with increasing efficiencies and services streamlined for all Americans.

The Administration is proud to support these My Data initiatives and discover even more opportunities to improve and unlock individuals’ data.

This post was originally published on the OSTP blog by Kristen Honey, a Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Phaedra Chrousos, Associate Administrator, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies/18F, U.S. General Services Administration; Tom Black, a Digital Service Specialist at 18F, U.S. General Services Administration.

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