Electronic health records (EHRs) have the potential to improve health-care quality by allowing providers to make better decisions at the point of care based on electronically aggregated data and by facilitating clinical research. These goals are easier to achieve when key, disease-specific clinical information is documented as structured data elements (SDEs) that computers can understand and process, rather than as free-text/natural-language narrative. This article reviews the benefits of capturing disease-specific SDEs. It highlights several design and implementation considerations, including the impact on efficiency and expressivity of clinical documentation and the importance of adhering to data standards when available. Pulmonary disease-specific examples of collection instruments are provided from two commonly used commercial EHRs. Future developments that can leverage SDEs to improve clinical quality and research are discussed.