Improving medication safety in primary care using electronic health records

J Patient Saf. 2010 Dec;6(4):238-43. doi: 10.1097/pts.0b013e3181fe401f.


Objectives: Electronic health record (EHR) systems offer promising tools to assist clinicians and staff with improving medication safety, yet many of the decision support components within these information systems are not well used. The aim of this study was to identify the strategies planned by primary care practices participating in a 2-year medication safety quality improvement intervention within the Practice Partner Research Network.

Methods: A theoretical model for primary care practice improvement was used to foster team-based approaches to prioritizing performance, system redesign, better use of EHR tools, and patient activation. The intervention included network meetings, site visits and performance reports. Improvement plans were qualitatively evaluated from field notes and organized to present a comprehensive approach to improving medication safety in primary care using EHRs.

Results: A total of 32 distinct plans and 11 common strategies were developed by practices to improve adherence with prescribing and monitoring indicators. Common plans included enhancing medication reconciliation to improve the accuracy of medication lists, using Practice Partner Research Network reports to identify patients meeting criteria for preventable medication errors, and customizing and applying EHR decision support tools for medication dosing, drug-disease interactions, and monitoring.

Conclusions: Medication safety might be improved by implementing specific strategies within the primary care setting. Further evaluation is needed to provide an evidence base for improvement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Humans
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / standards*
  • Medication Adherence
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Health Care / standards*
  • Safety Management / methods
  • Safety Management / standards
  • South Carolina