Objectives: Evidence of the impact electronic health records (EHRs) have on clinical outcomes remains mixed. The impact of EHRs likely depends on the organizational context in which they are used. This study focuses on one aspect of the organizational context: cohesion of primary care teams. We examined whether team cohesion among primary care team members changed the association between EHR use and changes in clinical outcomes for patients with diabetes.
Study design: Retrospective longitudinal study.
Methods: We combined provider-reported primary care team cohesion with lab values for patients with diabetes collected during the staggered EHR implementation (2005-2009). We used multivariate regression models with patient-level fixed effects to assess whether team cohesion levels changed the association between outpatient EHR use and clinical outcomes for patients with diabetes. Subjects were comprised of 80,611 patients with diabetes, in whom we measured changes in glycated hemoglobin (A1C) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C).
Results: For A1C, EHR use was associated with an average decrease of 0.11% for patients with higher-cohesion primary care teams compared with a decrease of 0.08% for patients with lower-cohesion teams (difference = 0.02% in A1C; 95% CI, 0.01%-0.03%). For LDL-C, EHR use was associated with a decrease of 2.15 mg/dL for patients with higher-cohesion primary care teams compared with a decrease of 1.42 mg/dL for patients with lower-cohesion teams (difference = 0.73 mg/dL; 95% CI, 0.41-1.11 mg/dL).
Conclusions: Patients cared for by higher cohesion primary care teams experienced modest but statistically significantly greater EHR-related health outcome improvements, compared with patients cared for by providers practicing in lower cohesion teams.