A new study released from Weill Cornell Medical College and the Primary Care Information Project (PCIP) of the New York City Health Department has been published in this month’s issue of Health Affair, offering health systems nationwide critical insights. It shows that patient care in smaller physician’s offices in New York City have been improving with the use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
In order to determine the effectiveness of electronic health records, the study group used New York Quality Alliance to gather data from the clinics involved in the Primary Care Information Project.
The New York City Health Department gave electronic health record software with support and assistance to 3,300 physicians at 600 practices in under-privileged neighborhoods to promote better quality healthcare, making it the largest community-based program in the United States. In addition, the Primary Care Information Project has offered continued assistance and education to over 7,200 providers at NYC REACH, a regional extension center of the New York City Health Department.
Using electronic health records alone did not show improvement in patient care; researchers from New York Quality Alliance found that it took at least nine months of training along with a minimum of eight technical support visits to achieve significant improvement of their abilities to properly use the Electronic Health Records. Offices that did not accept training or assistance showed little improvement after two years of using the system.
Weill Cornell Medical College’s Assistant Professor of Public Health, Dr. Andrew M. Ryan commented, “EHRs were once thought to be a cure-all for helping improve patient care, but there are implementation issues and the technology has a steep learning curve.”
In regards to the study, he added, “Our study shows EHRs can, in fact, be a tool for quality improvement, but not in isolation. Technical assistance must be at the heart of the EHR implementation process. Under-resourced, small physician practices, especially those taking care of underserved populations, need help to effectively use EHR technology to improve patient quality of care."
Moreover, findings show that assistance with training is necessary to improve the quality of care that the electronic health records can provide. And the Primary Care Information Project has found improvement in areas outside of those conducted in the study: blood pressure control, assistance with stopping smoking, and controlling cholesterol levels.
An electronic health record can include a vast array of stored data including: medical history, medication and allergies, immunization status, laboratory test results, radiology images, and vital signs, making them popular with health systems. Physicians who are using basic HER systems have grown from 22 percent to 35 percent since 2009, and, like most technological advancements, the adoption rates are increasing each year. As EHRs become increasingly popular, this study provides valuable insight and ensures that systems are being used properly and to their maximum efficiency and capabilities.
Edited by Jamie Epstein