EHR and Health IT Toolbox

April 01, 2011 05:30 pm News Staff

As the drive to fully implement electronic health records, or EHRs, and health information technology, or health IT, continues in the United States -- spurred, in large part, by the federal government's increasing focus on the issue -- a number of organizations, including the AAFP, have developed resources to help physicians with the process.

What follows is a listing of some of the organizations that are offering resources to help with the implementation of health IT. Although this list is not all-inclusive, it is a good starting point for those only beginning the process of converting to EHRs, as well as for those whose conversion is under way.

Center for Health IT

The AAFP's Center for Health IT( was established in 2003 to help family physicians interested in using EHRs and other types of health IT.

Materials offered include

Other items on the Center for Health IT website that might be particularly helpful include


The AAFP has always maintained that health IT and EHRs, in particular, are a vital component when implementing a patient-centered medical home. Thus, the AAFP's practice redesign subsidiary, TransforMED, has a number of resources that are devoted to health IT, including

Other TransforMED resources FPs might find helpful include information on

What's the Difference Between EHRs and EMRs?

During ongoing discussions about implementing health information technology, the terms electronic health record, or EHR, and electronic medical record, or EMR, often have been used interchangeably, leaving many FPs confused about the difference. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, or ONC, however, recognizes each of these terms as meaning something slightly different.

EMR was the initial term used to refer to medical records primarily used by physicians for diagnosis and treatment. "EMRs are a digital version of the paper charts in the clinician's office," says the ONC. "An EMR contains the medical and treatment history of the patients in one practice."

On the other hand, EHRs do everything an EMR does, and more. "EHRs focus on the total health of the patient -- going beyond standard clinical data collected in the provider's office and inclusive of a broader view on a patient's care," says the ONC. EHR data can be shared and massaged by physicians and clinical staff across the broad spectrum of health care and follows the patient as he or she moves from physician to physician. "With fully functional EHRs, all members of the (health care) team have ready access to the latest information, allowing for more coordinated, patient-centered care."

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology

HHS established the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, or ONC, to promote development of a nationwide health IT infrastructure. According to the ONC website, the ONC "is a resource to the entire health system to support the adoption of health information technology and the promotion of nationwide health information exchange to improve health care."

The ONC offers a number of resources for physicians adopting EHRs and health IT, including information on

  • EHR incentive programs(,
  • meaningful use(,
  • privacy and security regulations(,
  • programs established by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act(,
  • certification programs(,
  • federal health IT programs(,
  • health IT tools(,
  • regulations and guidance(,
  • ONC initiatives(,

Other resources ONC offers include a glossary of health IT terms( and health IT acronyms(, as well as information about locating a regional extension center( and ONC-authorized testing and certification bodies(

Family Practice Management Toolbox

The AAFP's practice management journal, Family Practice Management, has created a toolbox with a number of resources related to practice management. These include tools, forms, calculators and spreadsheets related to computerization. FPM also offers a number of articles that deal with selecting and implementing an EHR system, incentives, and meaningful use.

Other resources include