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Electronic Health Records Bring Challenges with Gains

Small group practices can benefit from these systems, but should be aware of complications

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Implementing an electronic health record system in a small physician group practice can lead to significant improvements in patient care and management, but can also require unexpected adjustments, according to a report in the Oct. 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Richard J. Baron, M.D., of Greenhouse Internists in Philadelphia, describes a project to improve mammography rates in his four-physician general internal medicine practice 18 months after implementing an electronic health record system. The project achieved a 10 percent improvement in mammography rates, but not without encountering difficulties along the way.

Problems included learning to input patient data into the chart in a structured format that the computer can read and incorporating clinical data from different sources that are not formatted according to a standardized system. Staffing levels in small practices also make it difficult to allocate the human resources needed to implement the sorts of improvements electronic health record systems can potentially provide.

"With 68 percent of all physician-patient encounters happening in groups of four or fewer physicians, achieving a 10 percent improvement in quality care measures for the population served by these offices could have a substantial effect on public health," Baron concludes.

Baron has received grants from Physicians Foundation for Health System Excellence and has a consultancy arrangement with Mercer Human Resources Consulting.

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