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Information Rx: Evaluation of a New Informatics Tool for Physicians, Patients, and Libraries
This paper reports selected results from two comprehensive evaluation studies of the Information Prescription (or Information Rx) Program implementation conducted from 2002-05 by the American College of Physicians Foundation (ACPF) and the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). In this Program physicians are provided with Information Prescription pads, analogous to pads used to prescribe medications, that are used to direct patients to the MedlinePlus web site and its contents that are applicable to a patient's health condition. The results describe the Program's potential to enhance patient education and interpersonal communication from physician and patient perspectives. The findings suggest once physicians adopt use of an information prescription, they perceive they are providing an additional clinical service that enhances patient education and interpersonal communication. For physicians, participation in information prescription may improve patient communication, encourage information seeking, and lessen the number of poor quality Internet searches that patients frequently self-perform and bring to a doctor's office. Similarly, once patients receive a recommendation from a physician to seek health information on the web, patients may be more comfortable with health seeking on the Internet and discussing their findings with their doctor. The conclusions of the two evaluation studies imply an Information Prescription fosters a dialogue between providers and patients, helps patients use the internet more effectively and seems to favorably impact patient education. As the medical community and patient advocacy groups continue to emphasize the importance of evidence-based information as the gold standard for accepted care, it can be expected that informatics tools such as Information Rx will come to play an increasingly important role as a vehicle to help identify and access high quality health information on the Internet.