Lead author Dr. Andrew M. Ryan of the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and colleagues at the Primary Care Information Project of the New York City Health Department used an independent data source using multipayer medical claims in New York state to link data to small practices.
The New York City Health Department initiative provided subsidized electronic health records software with clinical decision support and on site technical assistance to 3,300 physicians at 600 primary care practices in underserved neighborhoods serving disadvantaged populations.
The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, found electronic health records implementation alone was not enough to improve patient care overall or known electronic health records sensitive quality improvement measures, such as cancer screenings and diabetes care.
In fact, the researchers reported it took physician practices a minimum of nine months of electronic health records exposure, combined with eight or more technical assistance visits, to demonstrate any significant statistical improvements in certain key quality measures, including breast cancer screening, retinal exam and urine testing for diabetes patients, chlamydia screening for women and colorectal cancer screening.
"Our study shows electronic health records can in fact be a tool for quality improvement, but not in isolation," Ryan said in a statement.
"Under resourced, small physician practices, especially those taking care of underserved populations; need help to effectively use electronic health record technology to improve patient quality of care."