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The Impact of Electronic Health Records on Workflow and Financial Measures in Primary Care Practices

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Keywords: Electronic health records;workflow;financial performance

Objective: To estimate a commercially available ambulatory electronic health record's (EHR's) impact on workflow and financial measures.

Data Sources/Study Setting: Administrative, payroll, and billing data were collected for 26 primary care practices in a fee-for-service network that rolled out an EHR on a staggered schedule from June 2006 through December 2008.

Study Design: An interrupted time series design was used. Staffing, visit intensity, productivity, volume, practice expense, payments received, and net income data were collected monthly for 2004–2009. Changes were evaluated 1–6, 7–12, and >12 months postimplementation.

Data Collection/Extraction Methods: Data were accessed through a SQLserver database, transformed into SAS®, and aggregated by practice. Practice-level data were divided by full-time physician equivalents for comparisons across practices by month.

Principal Findings: Staffing and practice expenses increased following EHR implementation (3 and 6 percent after 12 months). Productivity, volume, and net income decreased initially but recovered to/close to preimplementation levels after 12 months. Visit intensity did not change significantly, and a secular trend offset the decrease in payments received.

Conclusions: Expenses increased and productivity decreased following EHR implementation, but not as much or as persistently as might be expected. Longer term effects still need to be examined.

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