Feb 2005 Table of Contents

EDITOR'S PAGE

Electronic Health Records: Taking the Plunge



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Choosing the right electronic health record system for your practice may not be easy, but this issue makes it easier.

Fam Pract Manag. 2005 Feb;12(2):11.

This issue's special focus on electronic health record systems (EHRs) is very much in tune with the times. According to conservative estimates, some 10 to 15 percent of AAFP members use EHRs, and many more are contemplating making the switch.

Moreover, the AAFP, among other organizations, is now committing major resources to the effort to get EHR systems into the practices of members. Through its Center for Health Information Technology (CHIT), the academy has negotiated discounts with a number of vendors, obtained funding for a multi-practice EHR pilot program, started collecting family physician reviews of EHR systems and more. For additional information on AAFP efforts and for resources you may find useful, see the CHIT Web site at http://www.centerforhit.org.

If you don't yet have an EHR

Our rather optimistic cover illustration has a good deal of truth to it: The computer can save you from a sea of paper. But we could as easily have shown a doctor about to dive from the top of a cliff-high pile of paper charts into the turbulent sea of computerization. The decision to take the plunge into the world of electronic records is a daunting one. You'll be glad to know that this issue has a good deal to offer anyone contemplating the purchase of an EHR or even beginning to think about thinking about it.

If you're still in that precontemplative phase, read “Practicing Without Paper Charts: One Clinic's Experience,” by Robert Rowley, MD (page 37). It will give you a taste of what EHRs have to offer. If you are already investigating the purchase of an EHR, then “Purchasing an Affordable Electronic Health Record,” by Louis Spikol, MD (page 31), and “How to Select an Electronic Health Record,” by Kenneth G. Adler, MD, MMM (page 55), offer you useful advice from two different approaches. Adler's article even gives you several useful tools for making the decision.

A special plea to EHR users

If you already have an EHR that you're satisfied with, you'll still find something for you in this issue, if only a chance for you to help your colleagues who still haven't made the leap. “Electronic Health Records: A User-Satisfaction Survey” (page 47) is actually the survey instrument itself, which we're publishing in the pages of FPM to maximize distribution.

This survey is intended to gather fairly detailed user satisfaction data on as many commercially available EHR systems as possible. We aim to collect product-specific information from AAFP members with an eye to publishing product-specific results in a future issue of FPM. But the project will succeed only if we can gather input from a substantial number of EHR users.

So please, complete the survey – either the print version in this issue or the online version that is available through the FPM Web site at http://www.aafp.org/ehrsurvey.xml. And please spread the word. Whether you work in a five-FP practice or a 50-FP practice, each one of your colleagues will have a unique and valuable point of view. While security concerns force us to limit respondents to AAFP members, our ideal is to have the opinion of every member who uses an EHR. The closer we get to that ideal, the more useful the feedback will be and the more we can help those about to take the plunge.

Robert Edsall is editor-in-chief of Family Practice Management.

Conflicts of interest: none reported.

Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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