VA’s Tool Simplifies Jargon for Patients

VA’s NoteAid program automatically simplifies medical jargon so patients can better understand the clinician’s notes viewed through their online portal

Patients using NoteAid are better able to understand their providers EMR notes which can sometimes be difficult for the average person to comprehend. The EMR notes are often filled with convoluted terms, phrases and complex medication and disease names making it difficult for a lay audience to understand.

The research team at Memorial Veterans Hospital in Massachusetts developed NoteAid which is still in the experimental stage. The biomedical natural language processing system recognizes medical jargon and links it with consumer-oriented, simplified definitions from external resources.

Veterans have access to their EHR notes through the VA’s web-based patient portal system “MyHealtheVet” To use NoteAid, patients put the information from their EHR notes into an online box and click “Simplify” according to a prototype of the software.  Now, the same information pops up but the data is highlighted with words that are explained in simple terms when one puts a mouse over the highlighted language.

The research team led by Dr. Hong Yu at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, suggests, “If information is understood, agreed with, and retained, it can lead to behavior changes in patients who are able to comprehend more about their medical status which can directly impact physicians.

According to researchers, behavior change in patients can have a direct impact on physicians. This knowledge can affect motivation skills by improving patient-clinical team communication which can lead to having patients more actively engaged in their healthcare.

NoteAid linked to four systems helping to define complicated terms and phases includes Wikipedia, the Unified Medical Language System (ULMS) “Medline Plus” run by the National Library of Medicine, and a hybrid that uses a combination of resources.

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