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EHRs Neglecting Preventative Care, Health Promotion

Current e-health record software fails to help clinicians identify patients who need additional services, finds government report.

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As doctors increasingly extract more data from the health IT they've deployed, a new study finds that software that tracks population health at physician practices is very limited.

The report, "Practice-Based Population Health: Information Technology to Support Transformation to Proactive Primary Care," is based on interviews with 18 physicians and nine clinicians and other office staff to find out if they are using technology that collects data on practice-based population health (PBPH).

Published last month by the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the report defines PBPH as an approach to care that uses information on a group of patients within a primary care practice or group of practices to improve the care and clinical outcomes of patients within that practice.

A PBPH approach to healthcare can help practices conduct more comprehensive health promotion and disease management, and can also make it easier for providers to focus on the preventive care needs of all of their patients.

PBPH can also help physician practices develop lists of patients to invite to group educational sessions on topics such as smoking cessation or chronic disease self-management, as well as identify patients to notify in the case of a medication recall. Providers can also find patients who are eligible for participation in clinical trials and make more informed decisions about areas for continuing medical education, the report said.

However, while respondents who use electronic health records (EHRs) and registries are performing more of the PBPH functionalities than those using paper-based records, none of the practices are performing all of the functionalities.

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