The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality hasissued a new white paper on health IT best practices for primary care practices to bolster adoption of the technology and to improve quality of care.

“Revitalizing the primary care system in the United States is critically important to achieving high quality, accessible, and efficient healthcare for all Americans,” states the paper. “The effective use of health information technology by primary care practices to facilitate quality improvement can help practices improve their ability to deliver high quality care and improve patient outcomes.”

Also See: Innovation Needed To Meet Primary Care Demand

Despite potential to improve care through data analysis enabled by electronic health records, registries, and health information exchange, health IT is underused for supporting quality improvement in primary care, AHRQ concludes. Part of the reason is that EHR use is relatively new in primary care and users have not mastered advanced functions.

AHRQ recommends the following next steps for collaboration among primary care practices, practice facilitators, IT developers, and decision-makers to increase the use of health IT for quality improvement:

*Share examples of exemplary uses and best practices to inspire and guide primary care practices seeking to create a culture that embraces using health IT for quality improvement.

*Continue to develop and refine technology to produce high-functioning, interoperable health IT tools.

*Empower primary care providers and staff with the necessary knowledge and skills to maximize the use of health IT for quality improvement.

*Provide guidance and tools to help primary care practices redesign processes and workflows to accommodate the effective use of health IT for quality improvement.

*Expand the availability of financial and other transformation incentives and supports.

“Although significant obstacles prevent many primary care practices from using health IT for [quality improvement], practices in diverse settings have demonstrated it is possible and pays off in improved processes of care and patient outcomes,” AHRQ notes.

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