Electronic health records: just around the corner? Or over the cliff?

Ann Intern Med. 2005 Aug 2;143(3):222-6. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-143-3-200508020-00008.


We recently implemented a full-featured electronic health record in our independent, 4-internist, community-based practice of general internal medicine. We encountered various challenges, some unexpected, in moving from paper to computer. This article describes the effects that use of electronic health records has had on our finances, work flow, and office environment. Its financial impact is not clearly positive; work flows were substantially disrupted; and the quality of the office environment initially deteriorated greatly for staff, physicians, and patients. That said, none of us would go back to paper health records, and all of us find that the technology helps us to better meet patient expectations, expedites many tedious work processes (such as prescription writing and creation of chart notes), and creates new ways in which we can improve the health of our patients. Five broad issues must be addressed to promote successful implementation of electronic health records in a small office: financing; interoperability, standardization, and connectivity of clinical information systems; help with redesign of work flow; technical support and training; and help with change management. We hope that sharing our experience can better prepare others who plan to implement electronic health records and inform policymakers on the strategies needed for success in the small practice environment.

MeSH terms

  • Computers / standards
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Health Personnel / education
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / economics
  • Internal Medicine / organization & administration*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / organization & administration*
  • Office Management / economics
  • Office Management / organization & administration*
  • United States
  • Workload