HealthDay News — The data from electronic health records (EHRs) can be utilized to improve the quality of patient care, according to an article by Ken Terry in Medical Economics.

Nearly 45% of 1,000 clinicians reported worsening patient care since implementation of EHRs, according to Terry. But, EHRs can also increase productivity and meaningfulness for clinicians and patients alike.

“If you find EHR documentation a bit overwhelming and resent the time it takes away from patient care, you might view the idea of using your EHR for quality improvement as a non sequitur. But some studies show that EHRs also do improve patient care and safety,” wrote Terry.

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Terry suggests five steps to help practitioners make the most of EHRs data:

  1. Use EHRs as reminders: After implementing EHRs reminders, Terry reports that a family practice was able to increase colorectal screenings for eligible patients from 43% to 90%.
  2. Customize health maintenance alerts: Search for ways to use the data to remind patients of routine health care checks, suggests the author.
  3. Use registry functionality: “Registries, which track the services provided to patients along with indicators of their health status and due dates for recommended care, are not yet being widely used in healthcare,” wrote Terry. “The EHR could supply a list of patients with uncontrolled hypertension who haven’t been seen in three months and don’t have an appointment in the next three months.”
  4. Share results with healthcare team: The authors suggests that EHRs can be used to share information between healthcare providers to provide better benefit to patient care.
  5. Maximize benefits of structured data: “The ability to use their EHRs to improve quality depends on whether they enter key data into the system in structured form,” wrote Terry. “If the data is not in codified fields, it doesn’t show up in reports or health maintenance alerts.”

“[We’re] entering a new era of value-based reimbursement, in which part of your income will be based on your quality scores. So it’s worth considering how your EHR can help you raise those scores,” wrote Terry.