Evidence that electronic health records can promote physician counseling for healthy behaviors

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Abstract

Background:

Health behavior counseling services may help patients manage chronic conditions effectively and slow disease progression. Studies show, however, that many providers fail to provide these services because of time constraints and inability to tailor counseling to individual patient needs. Electronic health records (EHRs) have the potential to increase appropriate counseling by providing pertinent patient information at the point of care and clinical decision support.

Purpose:

This study estimates the impact of select EHR functionalities on the rate of health behavior counseling provided during primary care visits.

Methodology:

Multivariable regression analyses of the 2007–2010 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey were conducted to examine whether eight EHR components representing four core functionalities of EHR systems were correlated with the rate of health behavior counseling services. Propensity score matching was used to control for confounding factors given the use of observational data. To address concerns that EHR may only lead to improved documentation of counseling services and not necessarily improved care, the association of EHR functionalities with prescriptions for smoking cessation medications was also estimated.

Findings:

The use of an EHR system with health information and data, order entry and management, result management, decision support, and a notification system for abnormal test results was associated with an approximately 25% increase in the probability of health behavior counseling delivered. Clinical reminders were associated with more health behavior counseling services when available in combination with patient problem lists. The laboratory results viewer was also associated with more counseling services when implemented with a notification system for abnormal results.

Practice Implication:

An EHR system with key supportive functionalities can enhance delivery of preventive health behavior counseling services in primary care settings. Meaningful use criteria should be evaluated to ensure that they encourage the adoption of EHR systems with those functionalities shown to improve clinical care.

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