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National Institutes of Health
NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Aligning Health Information with Patient Needs: 12/16/2013
Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov
Regards to all our listeners!
I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The health information that helps Americans make medical decisions often is not well-targeted to consumers and needs to be better aligned with patient needs, suggests an interesting perspective recently published inThe New England Journal of Medicine.
The perspective’s two authors note when Americans seek health information (and we quote): ‘consumers want clear and concise information that they can understand on factors such as out-of-pocket costs, the effectiveness of a procedure or treatment, and applicability to their personal condition and social situation’ (end of quote).
The authors, who are Harvard University faculty members, note most health consumers also want to know the extent of their illness as well as (and we quote)’ the resulting social or economic consequences for a patient’s family’ (end of quote).
However, the authors explain the available information about health care quality often compares clinical outcomes that are more relevant to medical center managers and health insurers than patients. For example, the authors note there is widely available data for health consumers in New York and Pennsylvania that compares heart surgery patient outcomes among statewide hospitals. Yet the authors write (and we quote), ‘this information does little to help patients decide whether they want or need surgery in the first place’ (end of quote).
As a supplement to current clinical outcome measures that provide metrics such as a patient’s odds of surviving an operation, the authors suggest it would be helpful to provide consumers with information such as the estimated time to return to work following surgery as well as the projected out-of-pocket insurance and related expenses.
The authors explain more consumer-targeted health information might yield additional benefits, such as new measures to better identify how personal health decisions impact medical care utilization trends. For example, the authors note the decline in national health spending between 2010-2012 (and a recent 17 percent drop in the number of physician visits by privately insured patients) often is explained by health economists as a byproduct of the 2008 U.S. recession.
However, the authors suggest if consumer needs and everyday decisions were better assessed by health statisticians they might find these declines were the result of Americans not seeking care because of increases in private insurance rates. The authors explain the prevalence of higher deductions in health plans and increased co-payment rates grew significantly between 2006-2012. As a result, the authors find the reduction in health care spending may reflect decisions by more patients to seek less care to avoid higher personal bills.
The authors conclude consumer health information should be better aligned with public concerns and preferences — and the collection of data about consumers needs to reflect more patient, caregiver, and family health care decision points.
As consumer health data hopefully are improved, MedlinePlus.gov’s evaluating health information health topic page can guide you to websites with practical and reliable medical information.
A website that helps you find reliable health information on the Internet (from the American Academy of Family Physicians) is available in ‘start here’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s evaluating health information health topic page. MedlinePlus.gov provides its own guide to healthy web surfing within the same section.
The National Library of Medicine’s guide to finding health information also is within the ‘related issues’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s evaluating health information health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov’s evaluating health information health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about evaluating medical information as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s evaluating health information health topic page, type ‘evaluating health information’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘evaluating health information (National Library of Medicine).’
MedlinePlus.gov also contains health topic pages on understanding medical information, taking with your doctor, and health literacy.
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