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The time to promote MedlinePlus Connect is NOW…

MedlinePlus Connect is a free service from the National Library of Medicine that can link the health information resource MedlinePlus.gov to EHRs and patient portals.  MedlinePlus Connect can be set up as a web service or web application and delivers relevant consumer level information on conditions, medications and labs from MedlinePlus after receiving a request  from the EHR via a coding system (ICD-9, SNOMED CT, RXCUI, LOINC).  For eligible providers and hospitals, using MedlinePlus Connect may help meet the Meaningful Use measure of providing patient-specific education materials.

As of November 2013, MedlinePlus Connect will respond to some SNOMED CT codes with information from both MedlinePlus and NLM’s Genetics Home Reference (GHR) web site.  GHR is the NLM’s resource for consumer information on diseases and conditions with known or suspected genetic factors.  This feature is only available for English SNOMED CT requests. To test it out, go to the MedlinePlus Connect web application or web service, select the SNOMED CT radio button and enter the code 445243001 for ulcerative colitis.

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.  We thought you might be interested in what some of the key informants identified as advantages of using MedlinePlus Connect.  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 and what they felt were the major advantages of the service:

• 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 Meaningful Use measure for providing patient-specific education materials was optional for Stage 1 and becomes a core requirement in Stage 2.  Key informants said that patient portals were the emerging issue of the year as organizations focus on Stage 2 criteria.  The time to promote MedlinePlus Connect is now as we move towards 2014 when Stage 2 implementation begins.

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