Primary care physicians who received more technical assistance when using electronic health record systems were more likely to achieve care quality improvements than physicians who received little or no technical assistance, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs, InformationWeek reports.
For the study, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City examined the New York City Health Department's Primary Care Information Project (Terry, InformationWeek, 1/9).
PCIP has provided subsidized EHR software, clinical decision support tools and technical assistance to about 3,300 physicians at about 600 primary care practices in underserved areas of New York City (Barr, Modern Healthcare, 1/8).
To determine how PCIP's EHR support and technical assistance affected care quality, the researchers used a state database of paid health insurance claims to evaluate performance changes for PCIP and non-PCIP physicians (InformationWeek, 1/9).
The study found that EHR implementation alone was not enough to improve the quality of care provided by the physicians studied.
According to the study, PCIP physician practices started to show certain improvements in care quality after at least nine months of EHR exposure and at least eight technical assistance visits.
In comparison, physician offices that received little or no technical support showed no significant improvements in care quality, even after using EHR systems for up to two years.
Researcher Comments on Findings
Andrew Ryan -- an assistant professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College and one of the study authors -- said the study "supports proof of concept that EHRs can improve outcomes, but widespread implementation of the technology and strong technical assistance is needed" (Roney, Becker's Hospital Review, 1/8).
Ryan added that future research could examine whether providing high-intensity technical assistance is cost-effective (Modern Healthcare, 1/8).