Routine use of electronic health records can improve the quality of preventive care and help manage chronic disease in primary-care practices, a study by the RAND Corp. concluded.
The findings were published in the Oct. 6 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In studying 305 groups of primary-care physicians in Massachusetts in 2007, RAND researchers found that practices using “multifunctional” electronic health records performed better on five commonly used quality measures—two involving diabetes care, and screenings for breast cancer, colorectal cancer and chlamydia.
EHR systems were linked to higher-quality care when they included advanced functions such as electronic reminders to physicians.
According to RAND, this is one of the first studies to demonstrate a link between use of EHRs in community-based medical practices and higher-quality care—although quality differences discovered in the study were modest in size.
“Electronic health records with advanced features are uncommon nationally,” said Mark Friedberg, the study's lead author and an associate natural scientist at RAND, a not-for-profit research organization. “Our results suggest that increasing their adoption may help improve the quality of care in important areas of preventive care and chronic disease management.”