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2011 MAY–JUNE No. 380
June 14, 2011 [posted]

MedlinePlus Connect Enhancements: Lab Responses and Web Service

MedlinePlus® Connect is NLM's service for patient portals and electronic health record (EHR) systems to link to context-relevant information from MedlinePlus. A previous article describes the launch of the service and its model for returning health information on diagnoses and medications. MedlinePlus Connect now provides responses to lab test information requests and is available as both a Web service and Web application. NLM released the Web service in April 2011 and announced the ability to respond to lab test requests in May 2011. With these recent enhancements, MedlinePlus Connect provides a complete solution for EHR developers and implementers who want to deliver trusted, authoritative and targeted consumer health information to their users.

Web Service

The MedlinePlus Connect Web service provides health IT systems with maximum implementation flexibility. Both the Web application and the Web service return targeted responses that match the specific problem (diagnosis), medication or lab test codes sent. However, the MedlinePlus Connect application delivers on-demand, formatted MedlinePlus Connect Web pages, while the Web service allows EHR developers to control which MedlinePlus information and links to embed within their own system.

In response to a diagnosis code request, the Web service returns titles and links to related MedlinePlus health topic pages, text summaries (1-3 paragraph overviews) for those health topic pages, and health topic synonyms. The lab test replies include specific titles and direct links to corresponding MedlinePlus lab test information pages. For drug information replies, the Web service returns a link to a search results page with the best matches to MedlinePlus drug information. At this time, the MedlinePlus Connect Web service does not return direct links to individual MedlinePlus drug information pages.  

The MedlinePlus Connect Web service conforms to the HL7 Context-Aware Knowledge Retrieval (Infobutton) Service-Oriented Architecture Implementation Guide, January 2011 Draft. This standard uses Atom as the framework for the knowledge response. The output of the request is XML, which is presented in the Atom feed format.

Visit the MedlinePlus Connect Web Service page for details on the Web service request parameters and response entry node elements.

Laboratory Test Information

MedlinePlus Connect now responds to requests for laboratory test information. This new feature complements MedlinePlus Connect’s ability to respond to information requests for specific diagnosis and medication codes. EHRs and patient portals can send a LOINC® (Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes) code request to the MedlinePlus Connect system. MedlinePlus Connect responds with links to MedlinePlus consumer health information for the lab tests related to those codes. Both the Web service and Web application accept and respond to lab requests (see Figure 1). MedlinePlus Connect provides information on many of the most frequently used lab tests, and will be expanded in the future.

For information on sending lab information requests through the Web application, see the MedlinePlus Connect Web Application page. For details on sending lab information requests through the Web Service, see the MedlinePlus Connect Web Service page. Also, visit the Web Application Demonstration page and the Web Service Demonstration page to see how MedlinePlus Connect responds to code requests.

By Stephanie Dennis
Public Services Division

Dennis S. MedlinePlus Connect Enhancements: Lab Responses and Web Service. NLM Tech Bull. 2011 May-Jun;(380):e14.