Patient Data Access News

ONC Adds Patient Education Materials to Patient Portal Guides

ONC has added information about patient education materials and patient portals in the Patient Engagement Playbook.

ONC recommends providers add patient education materials to patient portals.

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- ONC has partnered with the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) to instruct clinicians in adding patient education materials into the patient portal. 

The two agencies collaborated to add ODPHP’s myhealthfinder into the ONC’s Patient Engagement Playbook. ONC issued the Playbook last year to help providers leverage EHR patient portals to improve patient-centered care efforts.

“Research also shows that adding credible educational resources to patient portals can help improve their usability and effectiveness — and help boost patient engagement,” wrote ONC’s Lana Moriarty and ODPHP’s Linda Harris.

Moriarty serves as ONC’s Director of the Office of Consumer eHealth while Harris is ODPHP’s Director of the Division of Health Communication and eHealth.

myhealthfinder, the primary patient education guide out of ODPHP, offers patients specific preventive health actions based upon their EHR data, including age, sex, and pregnancy status. ONC and ODPHP added the finder into the Patient Engagement Playbook to encourage more clinicians to add myhealthfinder into their patient portals.

There are several benefits to adding patient education materials into patient portals, Moriarty and Harris explained. First, it will improve the patient-provider relationship.

“One of the most important parts of the patient-provider relationship is trust,” the pair wrote. “Giving patients access to credible, reliable and easy to use resources can help healthcare professionals demonstrate respect, fostering trust with patients.”

myhealthfinder uses evidence-based principles of patient health literacy and health IT usability to better drive their messaging for patients. Equipping patients with health information allows patients to play a role in decision-making and drives a more informed and meaningful conversation with providers.

Second, adding patient engagement materials to the patient portal adds efficiency for primary care providers who are already pressed for time. Patients who receive health education via their patient portal prior to a care encounter will save providers from having to explain complicated concepts.

Providers can leverage the patient portal to prompt patients to schedule their primary care visit. Within the alert, providers can “prescribe” an educational module that will enhance the upcoming visit, Moriarty and Harris explained.

myhealthfinder also imposes little to no burden on clinician workflow. Moriarty and Harris explained that ODPHP maintains the database, and that providers simply need to host the tool.

The pair noted that providers can host myhealthfinder via a widget, patient portal badge, or API.

Lastly, adding myhealthfinder and other patient education materials to the patient portal is the next step forward in modernizing medicine, Moriarty and Harris said.

EHRs and patient portals are increasingly becoming the central hubs of patient care. As patients continue to visit their portal to see their personal health information and interact with their providers, it will be important for providers to offer all necessary health information to that central location.

“In the future, the portal will evolve and further empower patients in even more ways, such as being able to request their medical records electronically via the patient portal, and send/share this information with other providers,” Moriarty and Harris concluded. “The more tools we have to help engage patients in their healthcare, the more we empower them to improve their health and well-being.”

These recommendations will be integrated into the Patient Engagement Playbook, issued in June 2016, in an effort to drive health IT as a part of patient-centered care efforts. The Playbook specifically reviews four best practices for optimizing patient portal use and integration.

Patient education served as the overarching theme to the Playbook, which covered topics such as increasing patient portal adoption, patient-centered design, caregiver involvement, and patient-generated health data. Ultimately, ONC aimed for the Playbook to help providers enhance the experience patients have with their healthcare and technology.


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