Technology Tools and Trends for Better Patient Care: Beyond the EHR


From remote monitoring of chronic diseases to virtual assistants in the exam room, technology will improve practice.

Fam Pract Manag. 2017 Sep-Oct;24(5):28-32.

Author disclosures: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

For many physicians, health information technology (IT) begins and ends with their electronic health record (EHR) system, a product that may not generate much satisfaction for them. The rocky road to EHR implementation may have colored some physicians' perceptions of health IT, but electronic tools are getting more intuitive and useful by the day. Encouraging developments in many sectors of health IT have the potential to expand the reach and capabilities of family physicians immediately and in the near future. This article highlights some health IT trends that promise to improve patient care now and in the near future.

Patient portals and patient-generated health data

Medicare's meaningful use program and the new Quality Payment Program have helped drive the adoption of patient portals, but most practices are still learning how to optimize them. When fully implemented as part of everyday workflows, patient portals can help practices serve and communicate with patients at any time, even outside regular office hours. Making information readily available through a portal or secure messaging for patients and their families can promote adherence to treatment regimens and care planning.1 These capabilities can also help you keep revenue within your practice by avoiding penalties and earning incentives under Medicare and other value-based or direct primary care payment models. Portals also help motivated patients be more engaged in their care, which can give them more control over their medical conditions and reduce their long-term out-of-pocket costs.2,3 Most data currently flows from the practice to the patient portal, but as patients generate more of their own health data through such things as wearable devices or remote patient monitoring (more on these trends later), we expect to see them submitting that data to portals more often.

Telemedicine and telehealth

Although telemedicine in its traditional form still exists, the acceptance and prevalence of virtual visits and e-consults are redefining the term and changing the face of the technology, which typically includes webcams (for synchronous visits), telehealth software, and sufficient Internet speeds. Outside of rural and undeveloped areas, virtual visits once were conducted solely between direct-to-consumer national telehealth service organizations dealing with

About the Authors

Dr. Waldren is the director of the Alliance for eHealth Innovation at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Dr. Agresta is the section leader for informatics at the Connecticut Institute for Primary Care Innovation (CIPCI) in Hartford, Conn., and is a professor, the director of medical informatics in family medicine, and the director for clinical informatics at the Center for Quantitative Medicine at the University of Connecticut in Farmington. Theresa Wilkes is the medical informatics strategist for the Alliance for eHealth Innovation at AAFP.

Author disclosures: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.



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4. Kosowsky J, Prewitt E. Q&A: How telehealth is just getting started. NEJM Catalyst website. October 24, 2016. Accessed July 18, 2017.

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10. DirectTrust website. DirectTrust metrics 1st quarter 2017. Accessed July 18, 2017.

11. Peng L, Gulshan V. Deep learning for detection of diabetic eye disease. Google Research Blog Published Nov. 29, 2016. Accessed July 18, 2017.

12. Esteva A, Kuprel B, Novoa RA, et al. Dermatologist-level classification of skin cancer with deep neural networks [published correction appears in Nature. 2017.] Nature. 2017;542(7639):115–118.


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