Using EHRs to Improve Health for Populations and Communities

Health information technology (health IT) is rapidly changing the way health care is delivered in the United States, bringing with it exciting possibilities for improving the efficiency and quality of patient care. It is critical for clinicians who are adopting health IT to select the right systems for their practice and incorporate the technology effectively into their daily care processes. Electronic health records (EHRs) are the IT foundation for medical offices.

Electronic health records give clinicians a powerful tool for preventing errors, measuring performance, and sharing information with patients and other providers.  As more clinicians adopt EHRs and make them part of the patient care process, they are also relying on them to coordinate individual  care and manage population health.

IPRO offers a wide range of services related to EHR selection, adoption and optimization. We work with a broad array of clients and partners, from government agencies to individual practices, to maximize the impact of EHRs as tools to improve the quality of patient care. Over the past several years, IPRO has worked with over 1000 practices on EHR-focused projects under federal, state and private contracts.

A Major Force for Improvement

In our role as the Medicare Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) for New York State, IPRO’s initiatives are aligned with other major health quality improvement programs and can help ambulatory practices improve their ability to report clinical quality data from their EHR systems and prepare for value-based payment by Medicare and other insurers.  IPRO  is hosting and coordinating two statewide learning and action networks (LANs) dedicated to helping offices improve their clinical performance and their use of electronic health records in day-to-day practice. One LAN focuses on cardiac health and the other on aspects of participating in the CMS EHR incentive programs, office organization, and patient-centered medical home recognition.  By participating in a LAN, health care providers can harness the power of a community for addressing common challenges, connect with a peer facility for mentoring, and replicate best practices in their own facility.  Participation in both LANs is open to all practices in New York.

Harnessing Health IT for Better Care

Current IPRO initiatives for improving population and community health through effective use of health information technology include:

Increasing rates of preventive screenings: Effective use of health information technology increases the capacity of primary care clinicians to deliver preventive services.  Building on the success of their previous EHR initiatives, IPRO is working with primary care practices that want to take full advantage of their EHR’s functionality for supporting care coordination to increase rates of screening mammograms, colorectal screenings, and influenza and pneumonia vaccinations. Participating practices can increase the number of patients for whom they have complete preventive care data, identify patients who need preventive care, measure and improve preventive care performance, and report data to CMS.

Reducing cardiac risk factors:  IPRO is a partner in Million Hearts®, an initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Serices, and co-led by CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  These agencies are working alongside other federal agencies and private-sector organizations to make a long-lasting impact against cardiovascular disease.   

Million Hearts seeks to reduce cardiac risk factors that include hypertension, smoking and high cholesterol and increase heart-healthy behaviors, such as aspirin for those who need it.  Through IPRO, clinicians and patients can link to resources for care coordination and patient self-management.  IPRO also supports practices in using their EHRs to coordinate care and measure improvement in the health of patients who are most at risk for a heart attack. 

Connecting EHRs to quality improvement. IPRO is coordinating with the New York eHealth Collaborative, one of the two health IT regional extension centers (RECs) in NYS.  We offer improvement expertise to practices that have implemented an EHR but not yet attained meaningful use. This may include, for example, offering assistance in interpreting clinical performance data and using it to drive and measure change. IPRO is encouraging participation in all of CMS’ EHR incentive programs.

Whether you run a small family practice, are a nurse practitioner, are part of a large primary care network or are a specialty physician, implementing an EHR and integrating it fully into your office brings with it a host of patient-related benefits. This is on top of the long-term cost savings associated with the increased efficiency EHRs can offer on the business side of your practice.

Last updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014