Use of Patient Registries in U.S. Primary Care Practices

One Pagers | Jun 01, 2007 Larry Green, MD et. al.

Patient registries identify relevant subpopulations of patients for proactive care, which includes timely preventive and chronic care reminders and prompts to ensure that patients receive care at appropriate intervals. Registries are vital for providing high-quality care, and are identified as an important characteristic of the New Model practice in the Future of Family Medicine study.1

Figure. Percentage of Prescription for Health practices that use registries to track single or multiple conditions.

This analysis takes advantage of the Prescription for Health (P4H) initiative. It includes information on 72 P4H practices, 38 (53 percent) of which reported having registries for single or multiple conditions (see accompanying figure).Practices that have any registry almost always have a diabetes registry. Practices with pediatric populations more commonly have asthma registries. Few practices have registries to monitor health behaviors, such as smoking, diet, physical activity, and risky drinking. 

The presence of a registry does not guarantee its effective use in managing and monitoring care. In only one half of the practices with a registry can subpopulations be sorted by clinical priorities, and only 14 of these practices (37 percent) link patient care to guidelines that provide prompts and reminders about needed services. In the 72 P4H practices, 47 percent of practices without registries and 42 percent of practices with registries have EHRs, and chi-square tests showed no association between the presence of an EHR and registry use. 

Registries are widely used among family medicine practices in the United Kingdom, where payment systems cover their costs and reward their use.EHRs with integrated registries can provide a source of patient information and maintain multiple disease registries. Few EHR systems in the United States are equipped with these critical functions.Changes in EHR design, health care payment, and quality incentives could improve the use of patient registries in U.S. primary care practices. 

  1. Martin JC, Avant RF, Bowman MA, Bucholtz JR, Dickinson JR, Evans KL, et al. The Future of Family Medicine: a collaborative project of the family medicine community. Ann Fam Med 2004;2(suppl 1):S3-32.
  2. Cifuentes M, Fernald DH, Green LA, Niebauer LJ, Crabtree BF, Stange KC, et al. Prescription for health: changing primary care practice to foster healthy behaviors. Ann Fam Med 2005;3(suppl 2):S4-11.
  3. Quality outcomes framework data 2005/06. The Information Centre, 2007. Accessed November 7, 2006, at:
  4. Using computerized registries in chronic disease care. California HealthCare Foundation, 2004. Accessed November 7, 2006, at:

The information and opinions contained in research from the Graham Center do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the AAFP. 

Published in American Family Physician, Jun 15, 2007. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(11):1629. This series is coordinated by Sumi Sexton, MD, AFP Associate Medical Editor