Merely owning an electronic health record system won't improve patient care, but an EHR can be a powerful tool to help providers do so, according to Jesse Singer, Assistant Commissioner of New York City's Primary Care Information Project (PCIP), home to the city's regional extension center (REC).
Singer, writing in a blog post in Health Affairs, noted that EHR adoption has been stymied by systems that are difficult to use and non-interoperable, and that many practices need assistance to make the transition to EHRs.
Unlike most other RECs, PCIP has been in existence since 2005, so it has had more of a chance to make inroads in EHR implementation. Thus far, it has helped more than 7,700 primary care providers adopt EHRs, and currently sends dashboard reports to 3,000 physicians in 550 practices.
In addition to helping physicians choose an EHR and provide technological support, it offers individualized assistance, such as tailored messaging and developing personalized new workflows to adapt to the transition from paper. PCIP also offers a database for physicians to run queries on public health questions.
However, the REC now has the potential to move into population health, partnering with City University of New York's School for Population Health to use the data at its disposal to better understand the health of New York City residents, particularly in underserved areas.
"The sooner everyone understands that implementing EHRs in physicians' offices is the starting line, not the finish line, the sooner EHRs can realize their potential as a tool to lower cost and improve care," Singer says.
Sixty-two RECs have been established around the country to help providers adopt EHRs, reporting varying degrees of success in their efforts.