The Bottom Line: Primary Care Practices’ Abilities And Challenges In Using Electronic Health Record Data For Quality Improvement

Deb Cohen, PhD, Principal Investigator, ESCALATES


Primary care practices need to be able to access and use their clinical EHR data to help them improve patient care. They also need these data to meet local, state and federal quality improvement incentive programs, like for CMS’ Quality Payment Program. However, little is known about whether their EHRs can do this.

Useful Findings

  • Many practices are using EHRs that lack the basic reporting functions that are needed to assess and guide quality improvement.
  • Most do not allow easy access to clinical performance measures at the practice, team and clinician levels.
  • Few allow identification of patients who have not received evidence-based care.
  • Most EHRs, even those federally certified by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, cannot use their EHRs for care measurement or improvement.

The Bottom Line

Practices should talk to their vendors and ask local, state, and national healthcare leaders to demand improvements to and standardization of their EHRs. When they buy a new EHR, they should review its QI capabilities carefully.

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