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Improving Patient Education Materials in Electronic Health Records

This project represents both a challenge and an opportunity for the health care industry, given that an estimated 90 million people in the United States have limited health literacy. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) contracted with Abt Global to lead a study to develop a rating system to assess whether patient education materials delivered by electronic health records (EHR) are written in a way that is understandable and actionable. Abt Global assembled a team of experts in health information technology (HIT) and health literacy; specifically, Drs. DesRoches and Donelan from Massachusetts General Hospital's Mongan Institute for Health Policy (IHP) and Dr. Wolf from Northwestern University’s Health Literacy and Learning Program (HeLP), to achieve these project goals:

  • Develop a scale to rate the understandability and actionability of health information or patient education materials provided via EHRs.
  • Complete an environmental scan and develop an inventory of publicly available health education materials that rate well on the new scale.
  • Review current EHR patient education capabilities and features.
  • Educate EHR vendors and users about the need for and availability of appropriate education materials.

Advances in HIT have the potential to improve accuracy and efficiency in health care, but a low level of patient “health literacy” can negatively impact the communication between physician and patient, resulting in substandard care. This project represents a challenge and an opportunity, given that an estimated 90 million people in the United States have limited health literacy.

Related Information

Demonstrating the Value of Clinician and Patient Access to Electronic Health Information

Measuring U.S. Progress on Health Information Technology

North America