Primary care physicians who use electronic health record systems are about half as likely as physicians using paper-based records to provide appropriate depression treatment to patients with three or more chronic medical conditions, according to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
For the study, University of Florida researchers used information from CDC's National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey between 2006 and 2008.
They analyzed 3,467 visits in which an adult patient had a depression diagnosis, noting whether the doctor prescribed or continued antidepressant medications, mental health counseling or a combination of the two approaches.
For patients with one or two chronic conditions, the study found that recommended depression treatments did not differ between physicians using EHR systems and those using paper-based records.
However, researchers found that patients who had three or more chronic conditions were about half as likely to receive appropriate depression care from a physician using an EHR system as they were from a physician using paper-based records (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8/22).
Possible Contributing Factors
Researchers suggested that the use of EHR systems might affect depression care because the systems might:
- Be programmed to focus more on physical health issues than on mental health issues;
- Require physicians to spend time entering data during patient visits; and
- Interfere with verbal communication between physicians and patients (Bowman, FierceEMR, 8/17).