In the past 10 years, electronic health records (EHRs) have had growing impact in clinical care. EHRs efficiently capture and reuse clinical information, which can directly benefit patient care by guiding treatments and providing effective reminders for best practices. The increased adoption has also lead to more complex implementations, including robust, disease-specific tools, such as for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In addition, the data collected through normal clinical care is also used in secondary research, helping to refine patient treatment for the future. Although few studies have directly demonstrated benefits for direct clinical care of RA, the opposite is true for EHR-based research - RA has been a particularly fertile ground for clinical and genomic research that have leveraged typically advanced informatics methods to accurately define RA populations. We discuss the clinical impact of EHRs in RA treatment and their impact on secondary research, and provide recommendations for improved utility in future EHR installations.