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Why Use MedlinePlus Connect? What Key Informants Say

Health care is undergoing a virtual information revolution, fueled by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which permits reimbursement incentives for eligible professionals and hospitals that meet criteria for becoming “meaningful users” of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology. The current focus on the Affordable Care Act has taken away some of the thunder from MedlinePlus Connect,  a free service that supports health professionals’ ability to provide health information to their patients. See how MedlinePlus Connect may be valuable to you and your organization.

“Meaningful use” is defined, in part, as using EHRs to improve and demonstrate the quality of care, such as e-prescribing, electronic exchange of health information, and submission of quality measures to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) [http://www.himss.org/meaningfuluse?navItemNumber=13303]. CMS has set standards to meaningful use that are to be met in stages. Organizations are currently working on Stage 1 implementation; Stage 2 implementation starts in 2014 [http://www.amednews.com/article/20121022/business/310229969/5/].

MedlinePlus Connect [http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/connect/overview.html] is a free service that supports health professionals’ ability to provide health information to their patients, which they will be expected to do (and document) in Stage 2 of implementation. Designed by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the service links EHR systems to MedlinePlus.gov [http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/], an authoritative up-to-date health information resource for patients, families, and health care providers.

The National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) is assisting the NLM with promoting MedlinePlus Connect. An NN/LM task force conducted interviews with 17 key informants representing the broad spectrum of organizations that are involved with EHR implementation.

The interviews included discussion with some innovative hospital librarians who are taking advantage of the dynamic EHR environment and finding ways to be involved with meaningful use at their organizations.

Key informants provided insight into the aspects of MedlinePlus Connect that are major advantages of the service from their perspective:

  • The material is evidence-based and updated regularly.
  • MedlinePlus links to primary literature, which is becoming increasingly popular among patients as they become more sophisticated in locating health information.
  • Patient information is provided in varying reading levels, multi-media formats, and different languages, with an extensive database of Spanish-language materials.
  • Health IT professionals will find easy instructions for integrating MedlinePlus Connect into EHRs.
  • MedlinePlus Connect allows health organizations to maintain their identifying information when MedlinePlus information is sought.

The fact that MedlinePlus Connect can be added to EHRs at no cost to users was a definite advantage, but key informants cautioned against calling it a “free resource”, a term that has a negative connotation among health professionals. It would be more effective to call it a “non-commercial service paid for by the National Library of Medicine with no cost to users”.

The time to promote MedlinePlus Connect is now. Key informants said that patient portals were the emerging issue of the year as organizations focus on Stage 2 criteria.

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