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Award Report: Evaluating MedlinePlus Connect–The Institute for Family Health

The Institute for Family Health, a community health center in New York City, collaborated with its project team between July 2010 and April 2011 to develop and pilot test strategies for evaluating MedlinePlus Connect, the National Library of Medicine resource that links patient-specific health information with the patient portal of an electronic health record (EHR) system to relevant consumer health information on MedlinePlus.  MedlinePlus Connect is currently implemented within the Institute’s own patient portal, MyChart-MyHealth.

The project team, which included members from the Instititute, Columbia University, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and the University of Miami School of Medicine, worked over the course of the NN/LM MAR award contract to achieve the following:

  1. further develop MedlinePlus Connect by creating direct links from medication sections of MyChart-MyHealth to relevant information on MedlinePlus
  2. develop reporting capabilities that will enable comparison of characteristics between MyChart-MyHealth users who do and do not use MedlinePlus Connect
  3. develop a formative pilot study to assess the usability and utility of MedlinePlus Connect to MyChart-MyHealth users

All three objectives were achieved.  Work on the first objective was completed in Fall 2010 and is now implemented in MyChart-MyHealth.  The Institute expanded on this effort by creating additional links from its newly launched Spanish-language MiRecord-MiSalud to Spanish-language information in MedlinePlus. The Institute also provided EHR-based laboratory test data to MedlinePlus staff to facilitate linkage to relevant content in MedlinePlus, and it is working to develop links to allergy and immunization information documented in the patient portal.

The Institute worked with NLM and its EHR vendor Epic to develop a program within MyChart-MyHealth (and its Spanish version) to track use of MedlinePlus Connect.  Patient use of MedlinePlus Connect from MyChart-MyHealth was tracked from 2/21/11 to 4/27/11.   During this period, over 900 Institute patients clicked on links to a wide variety of health topics and nearly 800 separate web pages, with an average of 24 patients per day linking to an average of 1.75 topics.  De-identified tracking data reports were developed to conduct a preliminary analysis of MedlinePlus Connect use by patient characteristics.  A minority (8.9%) of the Institute patients with MyChart-MyHealth accounts used the links during the tracking period.

To better assess patient awareness of MedlinePlus Connect, questions were added to an existing patient telephone interview protocol. This survey is ongoing, but preliminary data from 22 interviews with patients with MyChart-MyHealth accounts found that 18 (82%) of them were not aware of the MedlinePlus Connect links within the portal. These early data suggest that the Institute must develop a strategy to raise patient awareness of MedlinePlus Connect.

The project team developed a usability testing protocol for MedlinePlus Connect that includes a recruitment script, a participant consent form and background questionnaire, and a facilitator guide. The team was unable to recruit eight participants to pilot test the protocol, but it is developing strategies for more effective recruitment.

Overall, this project has led to the development of a series of strategies for assessing the use and usefulness of MedlinePlus Connect among community health center patients.  This work has laid the foundation for a longer term and more comprehensive assessment of MedlinePlus Connect.

Diane Hauser
The Institute for Family Health

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