InfoButton Access Supplies Data on Demand
By now, many people are familiarwith the concept of an electronic"infobutton" —a letter "i," often in a small circle or square, thatallows the user of a Web page to clickon it for additional information.
Such unique hyperlinks are helpfulno matter where they are found, butthey offer special promise for pharmacistsand other medical professionals.When dealing with a large number ofpatients, these professionals have littletime to step away from their work andto research unfamiliar dosages or druginteractions. This situation is especiallytrue in hospitals and other high-volumesettings.
For that reason, Thomson Micromedexlaunched InfoButton Access, itsproprietary infobutton system, inOctober 2004. InfoButton Access wasthe first medical infobutton technologybrought to market. It is currentlybeing beta-tested at multiple sites andis gaining market share.
As a provider of printed and electronicmedical databases, Micromedexhas long supplied clinical referenceinformation to pharmacists, physicians,nurses, and other caregivers.Company research showed, however,that this information would be accessedeven more if integrated into the hospital'sclinical information system.
"We heard from the marketplacethat our hospital customers needed atool that could deliver critical data atthe point of care and not interrupt thework flow," explained InfoButtonAccess product manager Nick Ackerson."For example, clinicians do nothave time to exit the applicationthey're working in or run out to theInternet and enter asearch term anddecide whichof the myriadof sources topick, or evenread throughthe 30 newarticles publishedabout thatdrug to find the answerthey're looking for."
InfoButton Access works by linkingwords in any electronic medical record,computerized physician order entry, orother health information system (HIS)application to on-line, context-specificreference materials. For example, in apharmacy setting, infobuttons attachedto words on the pharmacy'smain page might link to Thomson'sDRUGDEX System.
InfoButton Access is designedto be context-sensitive.It can be customized to providedifferent materials tousers of different applications.The customization helpsreduce the amount of extraneousinformation the user hasto wade through. If a clinicianis working within an emergencyroom application, Info-Button Access would link to apatient's discharge document.
The Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis,Ind, is one of the originalInfoButton Access beta-testing sites.Senior Investigator J. Marc Overhage,MD, PhD, said that it is too early to tellwhether the infobuttons integratedinto Regenstrief's systems are completelysuccessful. He thinks, however,that they represent a move in the rightdirection.
"The infobutton brings a fairly well-targetedsnippet of information rightthere in front of [the user] in adigestible form," Dr. Overhage said."There are a lot of challenges in healthcare with vocabulary; we don't all callthings by the same name. But Thomsonhas continued to expand the product'scapabilities to add additional informationand make a more targeted query."
The information itself is hyperlinkedto other reference materials, so that ifusers do not find everything they needimmediately they can "drill down" forfurther data.
Ackerson said that Micromedex is intalks with major HIS vendors to preintegrateInfoButton Access into theirsoftware packages. If a hospital hasdeveloped its own clinical system, thecompany's Professional Services Departmentcan assist in the integrationof the product into any hosted Webapplication.
Both Regenstrief and PartnersHealthCare in Boston have implementedInfoButton Access, with little or nouser training. The product is intendedto be intuitive. Indeed, it does appearto inspire spur-of-the-moment factchecking, even among the uninitiated.
"There's this little blue 'i' there, andthey have responded to that," Dr.Overhage said. "People in the on-lineworld are used to clicking on things tofind out what they do. If they do itonce and find it useful, they may do ittwice."
Ms. Swedberg is a freelance medical writerbased in Woodville, Ga.