Electronic health records (EHRs) for primary care physicians

A primary care physician is responsible for patient care, practice management, coordination with other providers, and many other activities throughout the day. The practice may also fall under the requirements of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) and its associated Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). With so many areas of the practice to manage, the independent physician needs a tool such as the electronic health record (EHR) to make everything run more smoothly and efficiently.

Many primary care physicians are already taking advantage of the many functions EHRs have to offer them. The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology (IT) states that as of July 2017, “354,395 ambulatory primary care physicians, medical and surgical specialists, podiatrists, optometrists, dentists, and chiropractors” are participating in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. Additionally Health IT reports that, as of 2015:

  • 64% of physicians had an electronic health record (EHR) with the capability to exchange secure messages with patients
  • 63% of physicians had the capability for their patients to electronically view their medical record
  • 41% had the capability for patients to download their medical record
  • 19% had the capability for patients to electronically send (transmit) their medical record to a third party
  • 16% of all physicians had the capability to provide all three functionalities – view, download and transmit – to their patients.

Primary care physicians quite often have a need to collaborate with specialty physicians, laboratories, and healthcare facilities to provide coordinated care for their patients. EHRs also help with this function, as they enable all providers caring for a patient to see the same information about that patient. EHRs enable the primary care physicians to enter and view patient information in real-time, so the potential for errors, duplications, or missing information is significantly reduced.

EHRs help primary care physicians do their jobs and more importantly, enable them to provide the highest quality healthcare to their patients.