With Meaningful Use incentives in full force and opportunities for value-based reimbursement emerging, there has never been a better time for family physicians to adopt an electronic health record (EHR). In addition to being a sound business decision, implementing an EHR makes good clinical sense. Following are 5 key ways that EHRs help family physicians improve their practice.

1.   Preserving patient safety. EHRs mitigate many patient safety risks, such as those related to illegible handwriting, duplicative therapy, or medication prescription errors. For example, the use of an EHR can help clinicians avoid dangerous drug interactions. The automated clinical alerts and reminders integral to EHRs also help reduce the potential incidence of medical errors.

2.   Empowering better care decisions. The clinical decision support features offered via an EHR give providers automated access to current and accepted guidelines and protocols, enabling the most appropriate, targeted and comprehensive care for patients.

3.   Keeping information handy. By housing all patient information—medical histories, chart notes, prescription medications, diagnostic studies, and lab results—in one place, providers can access patient information quickly and easily. Many family physicians are beginning to interface their EHR with local reference laboratories allowing them to order tests and receive results electronically. Importing results directly into the patient record not only increases efficiency, but reduces the likelihood that information will inadvertently be overlooked or lost.

4.   Facilitating quality reporting. An EHR generates accurate and robust reports for internal and external purposes. For instance, a practice can create reports about a specific patient population—such as diabetics—allowing providers to assess whether they are delivering complete care for these patients and helping to identify where potential gaps in care may exist. Similarly, a practice can develop reports to share with external entities to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements and ensure optimal reimbursement.

5.   Fostering interoperability. EHRs are starting to enable seamless information exchange between family physicians and specialists, emergency departments, hospitals, and even immunization registries. Consider the example of a new pediatric patient who moves to town. A family physician with an EHR can automatically download an accurate copy of the patient’s immunization record from a state registry, eliminating the need to rely on the patient to bring the record to the office.

When used to the fullest extent, EHRs are invaluable for family physicians, helping deliver safer and more targeted care, improving patient outcomes, boosting efficiency and enhancing overall care quality of care.