The monthly HRSA health information technology (IT) grantee spotlight illustrates the innovative use of health IT among HRSA grantees to provide high quality health care within the safety net community. This month’s grantee spotlight focuses on The Institute for Family Health’s (IFH) partnership with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to develop and implement MedlinePlus Connect. IFH utilizes MedlinePlus Connect to provide accurate, up-to-date health information to patients through its electronic health records (EHR) system.
IFH, a federally-qualified health center network and current grantee of HRSA’s Bureau of Primary Healthcare, implemented its EHR system in 2002. IFH serves a highly diverse patient population at 17 health centers in the Bronx, Manhattan, and the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York State. In addition to primary care, the centers provide dental care, social services, mental health services, and comprehensive care for those with HIV/AIDS. IFH also provides health care to people who are homeless at eight locations in Manhattan.
In 2008, IFH implemented an EHR-based patient portal known as MyChart-MyHealth. Last month, it launched a Spanish version of the portal, known as MiRecord-MiSalud. In addition to providing patients with electronic access to their own health information, IFH wanted to provide health education materials that would help patients understand their diagnoses, medications, and other information in their records. After assessing several commercial products, IFH turned to NLM, an agency of the National Institutes of Health which maintains MedlinePlus.gov, a comprehensive consumer health information website.
“For us, MedlinePlus was a perfect match,” said IFH President and CEO Neil Calman, M.D. “We developed MedlinePlus Connect to link clinical data in our patients’ records with the easy-to-understand consumer health information available in Medline Plus.” The MedlinePlus website, launched by NLM in 1998, provides a wide range of health information for a lay audience, including over 20,000 links to authoritative health information. Materials on many topics are written at a 5th - 8th grade reading level and are available in up to 26 languages. “Our 90,000 patients have a range of health and computer literacy levels, and are often more facile in a language other than English,” says Dr. Calman. “We needed a solution for all of our patients.”
With the implementation of MedlinePlus Connect, patients can click on hyperlinks within their own electronic health records to connect directly to relevant health information on the MedlinePlus.gov website. Currently, diagnoses and medications are linked to specific information pages, and links to pages about laboratory tests will be available in the coming year. Patients using IFH’s Spanish version of the portal are linked directly to Spanish-language pages of MedlinePlus. As a result of the success of IFH’s initiative, NLM has made MedlinePlus Connect available to all health care providers operating patient portals.
IFH’s work in linking its patient portal with the NLM’s MedlinePlus website is one of many innovative examples of HRSA grantees using health IT to provide high quality care to underserved communities.. For more information on the IFH’s groundbreaking work in health IT within the safety net community, please visit their website at http://www.institute2000.org.