Approaches and challenges to optimising primary care teams’ electronic health record usage

Nancy Pandhi, Wan-Lin Yang, Zaher Karp, Alexander Young, John W. Beasley, Sally Kraft, Pascale Carayon


Background Although the presence of an electronic health record (EHR) alone does not ensure high quality, efficient care, few studies have focused on the work of those charged with optimising use of existing EHR functionality.

Objective To examine the approaches used and challenges perceived by analysts supporting the optimisation of primary care teams’ EHR use at a large U.S. academic health care system.

Methods A qualitative study was conducted. Optimisation analysts and their supervisor were interviewed and data were analysed for themes.

Results Analysts needed to reconcile the tension created by organisational mandates focused on the standardisation of EHR processes with the primary care teams’ demand for EHR customisation. They gained an understanding of health information technology (HIT) leadership’s and primary care team’s goals through attending meetings, reading meeting minutes and visiting with clinical teams. Within what was organisationally possible, EHR education could then be tailored to fit team needs. Major challenges were related to organisational attempts to standardise EHR use despite varied clinic contexts, personnel readiness and technical issues with the EHR platform. Forcing standardisation upon clinical needs that current EHR functionality could not satisfy was difficult.

Conclusions Dedicated optimisation analysts can add value to health systems through playing a mediating role between HIT leadership and care teams. Our findings imply that EHR optimisation should be performed with an in-depth understanding of the workflow, cognitive and interactional activities in primary care.


computerised medical record systems; EHR acceptance; EHR optimisation; electronic health records/utilisation; primary care

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