Preferences of older adults and their families for Meaningful Use clinical summaries

Karen Colorafi, Robert A. Greenes, Marc Kates


Background: This study assessed the perceptions of older adults regarding the plan of care (POC) contained in the clinical summary mandated by the Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program.
Methods: A qualitative descriptive design was selected for this study. Older adults (≥65) with chronic cardiac diagnoses were invited to participate. The investigator shadowed the physician during the patient encounter, interviewed the patients following their encounter, and asked patients to complete standard health literacy and cognitive screening tools and the Patient Activation Measure. Directed content analysis was used to analyze transcripts.
Results: Patients (n=40) found the clinical summary useful for sharing information with family members and other physicians, reminding and informing, and for engaging in behavior change. Seventy-six percent reported that they would not go online to access the clinical summary for multiple reasons, including not being “computer savvy” and privacy concerns. Participant recommendations for a re-designed, improved clinical summary are included. The clinical summary helps patients and families communicate among health care professionals in a complex, disjointed health care system that often burdens patients with that responsibility. The majority of participants were happy with the paper version and offered multiple reasons for not wanting online access that may help us to focus on more compelling reasons for patient portal use.
Conclusions: Qualitatively, it appears that the clinical summary is a useful tool for engaging people with chronic disease in self-management. The participants in this study told us what many of us already know to be true; that the documentation we provide patients and families is less than ideal.