With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), you as a primary care provider can receive financial support for investing in and using electronic health records (EHRs) in a manner that will improve health care quality and efficiency. But simply using an electronic substitute for paper clinical notes is not likely to lead to such improvements, which is why the federal government requires evidence of “meaningful use” of your EHRs as a condition of financial support.

Quality and cost are more likely to improve by leveraging the EHRs to ensure that patients receive appropriate preventive care and proper management of chronic conditions. The use of a built-in clinical decision support system (CDSS) is one major way to accomplish this objective. The CDSS is an approach every primary care practice currently already uses informally and usually not consistently, through simple mechanisms such as reminder systems, lookups of drug interactions, or consultations with colleagues.

The ability of your practice team – including physicians, staff, and patients – can be greatly enhanced by introducing more CDSS tools through EHRs. Some excellent suggestions are incorporated in a new resource, Clinical Decision Support in the Medical Home, from the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative (PCPCC). This guide defines clinical decision support and describes its role in a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) – or any primary care practice – for enhancing quality and lowering costs. Published by the PCPCC’s Center for eHealth Information Adoption and Exchange, the resource presents the types of clinical decision support available, ways to implement them smoothly into the physician practice, and keys to their effective use. It also outlines how clinical decision support can help primary care providers demonstrate they have met the federal government’s “meaningful use” criteria, which is required in order to obtain ARRA funding. 

This guide is available at:

Clinical Decision Support in the Medical Home


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