The use of clinical protocols allows health care providers to offer appropriate diagnostic treatment and care services to patients, variance reports to purchasers and quality training to clinical staff. Such protocols provide a locally agreed standard to which clinicians and the organization can work and against which they can be audited. By embedding protocols into patients' records and reporting by exception, the use of protocols may help to tackle a raft of other issues successfully such as the reduction in junior doctors' hours, and the facilitation of shared care. It may also bolster the medico-legal robustness of the health care delivered. If the protocols are sufficiently detailed, costing, coding and other resource usage information can flow directly from the clinical records. Such benefits may be maximized by using protocols within the framework of an electronic patient record system.