Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Do you have electronic alert fatigue?

Do you at times ignore those nagging electronic alerts?

I spoke with a physician recently who told me his office doesn’t use all the electronic reminders offered by his EHR. They are great, and they use them, he told me, but too many can prompt some docs to ignore them. “There can be a bit of fatigue,” he said.

Reminders and alerts can be helpful, but they can be overkill. A recent study of nearly 1,200 electronic alerts sent to doctors at a VA medical center and five clinics in Houston found that physicians failed to click open the alerts nearly 20 percent of the time, according to American Medical News.
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For 7.7 percent of the time, docs using EHRs failed to take action on clinical meaningful abnormal results within a month, and more than a quarter of the tests that initially were overlooked resulted in a new disease diagnosis.

However, doctors were more likely to follow up on results when radiologists took the extra step of calling instead of relying on only EHR alerts. The study said systems should be designed to leave important alerts on the screen until physicians take action on them. Another recommendation was to reduce information overload for physicians.

Another study last spring on e-prescribing systems found that many docs found the alerts more annoying than helpful.

So the technology might offer plenty of benefits, but it also requires a change in the practice work flow.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Sara,

    Some e-prescribing systems, such as DrFirst's Rcopia, allow physicians the choice of only being alerted for severe interactions.