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The Infobutton: ONC Gets it Right

The ONC’s proposed rule for Electronic Health Record certification under Stage 2 Meaningful Use includes one requirement that will be good for clinicians and good for patients – the Infobutton.  Under the rule, EHRs certified for Stage 2 would be required to support the HL7 Infobutton standard for two distinct use cases:

  1. Providing a context-sensitive link to reference information to support clinical decision making
  2. Providing links to patient-specific education resources

So what is an Infobutton?  Infobuttons link an EHR to an outside knowledge source.   Importantly, Infobuttons are context sensitive.   For example, if the patient has a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis on his or her problem list, an Infobutton next to that problem would link the user to one or more knowledge sources about multiple sclerosis.  The user can access the information immediately without opening a new application or web page, without logging in (log-in information is passed automatically to the knowledge source), and without needing to search the knowledge source. 

The idea is to make it quick and easy to answer clinical questions.  Studies have shown that physicians generate an average of two questions for every three patient encounters, and answering those questions is often significant for patient care.  Today, those questions frequently go unanswered due to lack of time. 

As a practicing emergency physician, I can tell you that there’s nothing worse than not knowing the answer to a critical question when you need it.  Infobuttons like those within our Sunrise Clinical Manager are a practical means of generating quick answers to urgent clinical questions.

I want to commend ONC for including the Infobutton standard as part of Stage 2.  Adoption of the Infobutton standard by both EHR vendors and content providers should have a measurable impact on improving clinical decisions and facilitating the delivery of timely and appropriate education materials for patients.  We’re already seeing the impact of this decision as every content vendor we’ve talked to is moving rapidly to support the standard, along with Allscripts. 

Our ability to meet the standard will enable our clients to choose both the reference sources and patient education sources that are most appropriate for their organizations, knowing that they can easily integrate them with their EHR using the Infobutton standard.

QUESTION: How do you feel about the proposed Infobutton requirement? If you’re a clinician, would it improve your practice?

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