Most agree that electronic health records (EHRs) can cut health-care costs and reduce errors. However, only a few providers have adopted EHRs because deployment costs are often prohibitive. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) is taking the bull by the horns and helping physicians deploy and use EHR systems.

Through its Primary Care Information Project (PCIP), the department pays some costs of deploying EHR systems. The goal is to boost EHR adoption among New York City doctors and give them the tools they need to improve patient care.

"We believe the absence of consistent evidence-based care in primary practice is a public health problem," said Farzad Mostashari, assistant commissioner of the DOHMH.

A focus on chronic diseases and common killers like high blood pressure and diabetes can save lives and result in a healthier population, making it a matter of public health, he explained. However, in some ways, agencies like the DOHMH are limited to combat these common issues.

"We don't directly provide health care. We don't pay for or even regulate health care," said Mostashari. "Our solution was to try to change the decision-making context for the clinicians by providing them with electronic health records that have a public health perspective baked into it."

Boosting Adoption, Improving Care

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