The impact of electronic health record functions on patterns of depression treatment in primary care

Elizabeth B. Matthews, Ayse Akincigil

Publication Date: 10/21/2021



Many individuals with depression are not being linked to treatment by their primary care providers. Electronic health records (EHRs) are common in medicine, but their impact on depression treatment is mixed. Because EHRs are diverse, differences may be attributable to differences in functionality. This study examines the relationship between EHR functions, and patterns of depression treatment in primary care.


secondary analyses from the 2013–2016 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey examined adult primary care patients with new or acute depression (n = 5,368). Bivariate comparisons examined patterns of depression treatment by general EHR use, and logistic regression examined the impact of individual EHR functions on treatment receipt.


Half the sample (57%; N = 3,034) was linked to depression treatment. Of this, 98.5% (n = 2,985) were prescribed antidepressants, while 4.3% (n = 130) were linked to mental health. EHR use did not impact mental health linkages, but EHR functions did affect antidepressant prescribing. Medication reconciliation decreased the odds of receiving an antidepressant (OR = .60, p < .05), while contraindication warnings increased the likelihood of an antidepressant prescription (OR = 1.91, p < .001).


EHR systems did not impact mental health linkages but improved rates of antidepressant prescribing. Optimizing the use of contraindication warnings may be a key mechanism to encourage antidepressant treatment.


Read More