MedlinePlus Connect: Connecting Electronic Health Records to Health Information for Patients and Consumers
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) recently announced MedlinePlus Connect (http://medlineplus.gov/connect), a free service that allows electronic health records (EHR) systems to link patients and consumers to MedlinePlus (http://medlineplus.gov), NLM’s authoritative up-to-date health information resource for patients, families and health care providers. MedlinePlus provides information about conditions and disorders, medications, and health and wellness. When MedlinePlus is implemented in an EHR system with a patient portal, the patient can click on a diagnosis or medication in the patient record to navigate to the appropriate page in MedlinePlus.
MedlinePlus Connect accepts requests for information on diagnoses (problem codes) and medications. NLM mapped MedlinePlus health topics to two standard diagnostic coding systems used in EHRs: ICD-9-CM and SNOMED CT CORE Problem List Subset. When an EHR submits a problem code to MedlinePlus Connect, the service returns the mapped health topic as a response. MedlinePlus Connect also links EHR systems to drug information written especially for patients. For medication codes, MedlinePlus Connect accepts RXCUIs and NDCs. The service also conforms to the HL7 Context-Aware Knowledge Retrieval (Infobutton) Knowledge Request URL-Based Implementation specification.
MedlinePlus responds to problem code requests in either English or Spanish. Currently, it supports requests for drug information in English only. NLM is working on adding laboratory test responses to MedlinePlus Connect. It will also support an XML-based Web service at a future date.
Advantages of MedlinePlus Connect
Implementing MedlinePlus Connect has a number of advantages:
- It is FREE – no licensing or registration.
- It may help your hospital or practice group achieve one of the 10 menu criteria for Meaningful Use of Health Information Technology. For more information about meaningful use, see: The “Meaningful Use” Regulation for Electronic Health Records. Blumenthal D, Tavenner M. N Engl J Med 2010 Aug 5; 363(6):501-4 (See PMID 20647183).
- There is no need to use MedlinePlus Connect exclusively – most systems can be configured to link to more than one source of patient information.
- Implementing MedlinePlus Connect will make a global change; you do not need to create individual links.
- MedlinePlus Connect utilizes existing standards.
MedlinePlus Connect Demo
A MedlinePlus Connect demonstration page is available at http://apps.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/services/demo.html. The demo page allows you to type in problem codes and medication codes so that you can see the results that MedlinePlus Connect would deliver to users of an EHR system.
This screen shot shows the first page of the demo. The user has typed in the ICD-9-CM code 493.22:
MedlinePlus Connect will map this code to the health topic “Asthma.” After pressing Go, the MedlinePlus Connect “Infobutton” page displays the results of the search:
The user can then click on “more” to get to the Asthma health topics page:
Implementing MedlinePlus Connect
MedlinePlus Connect was beta tested with EPIC users, so if your hospital or practice group is already using EPIC, you can ask the vendor to implement the feature within your system.
Since MedlinePlus Connect is a web application that utilizes internationally recognized standards, it can also be linked from other EHR systems. It uses a formatted URL to pass the problem code or medication code from the EHR to MedlinePlus Connect. The documentation for this is straightforward; access it at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/connect/technical.html.
For More Information
You can find more background and technical information at http://medlineplus.gov/connect. If you are interested in staying up-to-date on developments with MedlinePlus Connect, or talking to other organizations that are using it, join the free email list at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/connect/emaillist.html. To send questions or feedback, use the MedlinePlus Contact Us link at http://apps.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/contact/index.cfm.
If your hospital or practice group implements MedlinePlus Connect, please let your RML staff know about it! We look forward to hearing about your experience with this exciting new service. Send your messages to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact any RML staff member.