Ranking system to determine educational effectiveness of EHRs

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently kicked off creation of a ranking system to determine how well electronic health records educate the patients for whom they are tasked with improving care quality. In a notice published last Friday in the Federal Register, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services said that to date, health education materials delivered by EHRs are "rarely … understandable and actionable for patients" who have low health literacy.

"In order to fulfill the promise of EHRs for all patients, especially for persons with limited health literacy, clinicians should have a method to determine how easy a health education material is for patients to understand and act on," HHS said. The notice added that clinicians also should be able to understand capabilities and features of EHRs related to educational processes.

So far, AHRQ already has developed a draft "Health Information Rating System" based on existing ratings systems. What's more, the draft system already has rated two sets of patient health education materials, according to the notice:

  • A set of six education materials related to asthma
  • A set of six education materials related to colonoscopy

The materials were divided up according to both their understandability (the ability for consumers with varying degrees of health literacy to be able to process and explain key messages ) and their actionability (the ability for those same consumers to identify what actions can be taken based on the information presented).

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that patients who had access to their doctors' notes in an electronic health record felt an increased sense of control and had a greater understanding for their medical issues. The study's authors added that open notes could be "a powerful intervention for improving the health of patients."

Patient access to health records also has been found to reduce discrepancies and improve safety.

To learn more:
- read the Federal Register notice