EHRs pinpoint patients who need personalized health messages

Patients who received personalized messages about their risk of cardiovascular disease generated from EHR data were more likely to get medication to reduce their cholesterol, one of the risk factors for the disease, according to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The researchers, from Northwestern University, theorized that assessment of patient risk for cardiovascular disease often did not occur at the primary care level, and that using the EHRs to pinpoint patients who were at risk would increase preventive care. The study of 29 physicians and 435 eligible patients used the physicians' EHRs to automatically identify at-risk patients not being treated for high cholesterol, enabling the physicians to generate personalized messages delivered by mail suggesting that the patients come in to discuss this issue.

The letters doubled the proportion of patients who received new lipid lowering drug prescriptions, showing that such messaging results in improved treatment and control of LDL cholesterol. Twenty-two percent of these patients lowered their cholesterol "significantly" after 18 months.

"Data in an electronic health record (EHR) can be used to identify candidates for risk-reducing interventions," the researchers noted.

The study also reported that there was room for improvement, as most patients who received the letters simply did not respond to them. They suggested that additional action, such as sending repeated letters or a combination of physician interventions could increase the amount of preventive care.  

Studies have shown that sending targeted messages to patients can improve their care and increase their adherence with medication regimes. However, there is some concern in the industry that mining EHR data to identify applicable patients may violate privacy laws.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- here's the study