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EHRs Get Help Meeting 'Meaningful Use'

The National Institutes of Health has launched MedlinePlus Connect, enabling electronic health records to link patients directly to up-to-date medical information.

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As the drive to integrate health systems and share patient information advances, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) has launched MedlinePlus Connect, which links patient portals and electronic health record (EHR) systems to MedlinePlus.

MedlinePlus is the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) website where patients, family members, and friends can search for drug information, find the meaning of medical terms, view medical videos or illustrations, and access information about clinical trials on a disease or condition.

Produced by the NLM, which is part of NIH, MedlinePlus has hundreds of health topic pages that bring together up-to-date information from NIH, other federal agencies, and health information providers. When a person sends a request for information about a diagnosis, medication, or lab test, MedlinePlus Connect receives the request, sorts through the information and returns relevant MedlinePlus information.

Since MedlinePlus Connect helps EHRs identify patient-specific education resources, it may assist eligible healthcare providers in meeting one of the criteria for meaningful use of certified EHR technology.

"One of our core principles is that meaningful use of EHRs should help patients get access to information that is meaningful and useful to them," Farzad Mostashari, MD, national coordinator for health IT, said in a statement. "This meaningful use objective helps patients obtain information tailored to their health situation, and this free service helps providers do this efficiently."

To use MedlinePlus Connect, the NLM advises organizations to contact their EHR vendor or work with their in-house technical staff to follow the instructions in the technical document.

The technical document notes that:

-- A personal health record (PHR) or EHR vendor may activate MedlinePlus Connect at an enterprise level so it is available to all users.

-- Health IT managers, such as at hospital systems or healthcare providers, may implement MedlinePlus Connect in their system if they have the administrative rights to make these adjustments.

The NLM has posted further details, including an online demonstration. MedlinePlus Connect accepts several coding standards such as ICD-9-CM, SNOMED CT CORE Problem List Subset, RxNorm, NDC, and LOINC. MedlinePlus Connect only needs to be set up once and NLM regularly maintains the vocabulary mappings and topic links.

Other key facts about MedlinePlus Connect worth noting: It's free and doesn't require registration. It can serve any heath IT system that uses the HL7 Infobutton Standard. You don't have to use it exclusively to link to patient education information; many EHR systems can be configured to link to more than one source of consumer health information. You only need to implement MedlinePlus Connect once for the whole system; individual links do not need to be created.

The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. It happens in New York City on July 12. Find out more.

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