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Express Outreach Award Highlights: Integrating Patient-Centered Health Information into the Patient Centered Medical Home

by Terry Henner
Library Director
Savitt Medical Library
University of Nevada School of Medicine
Reno, NV

Clinicians are integrating iPads into their practice of medicine at a dizzying rate. Often the reason is an intention to improve efforts at patient education. In 2012, the University of Nevada Savitt Medical Library received an Express Outreach Award from NN/LM PSR, for a project to explore the potential of iPads in patient education efforts. Our project placed iPads in several clinical exam rooms for both clinician and patient use. We also created a patient-centered information portal optimized for iPad viewing, to facilitate access to key educational content. We hoped to see to what degree tablet computers were productive in fostering better doctor-patient communication and patient self-care, and whether having a patient-centered website would contribute to more productive tablet use.

Our partner in this project was the medical school’s Department of Family Medicine, which had recently established a new outpatient clinic based on the patient-centered medical home model. We felt this new clinical environment provided a perfect opportunity for a library intervention to test the impact of iPads. We prefaced our efforts by gathering some baseline data on the participating clinicians’ attitudes and expectations regarding use of iPads. Their responses indicated that they were generally optimistic about the potential for iPads, but had some concerns about IT support and integration into the networked environment.

The process of creating the portal rested entirely on input from clinicians as to the most commonly occurring patient education scenarios. Through an extensive and at times exhausting series of interviews with clinic staff, we were able to construct a set of basic disease categories, each with a subset of narrowly drawn patient education topics. Because navigating comprehensive patient education websites can be overwhelming, we hypothesized that there could be a need for a limited scope tool that could readily drill down to critical bits of health information that addressed very specific and recurring patient education needs.

If there was one sustained thorn in our side during this project, it was working with our IT staff to resolve technical problems! Some issues were linked to security and HIPAA concerns; some were simply symptomatic of iPad design. A lesson learned is that whenever IT is involved, things are never as simple as they seem, and that compromises in functionality are sometimes inevitable. The next steps for us are to give clinical faculty and patients the necessary time to adapt to the new tools. Additional follow-up and assessment will guide enhancements to the patient education portal, and help us better understand the benefits and drawbacks of iPads as a clinical information access tool!

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