Evaluating informatics applications--clinical decision support systems literature review

Int J Med Inform. 2001 Nov;64(1):15-37. doi: 10.1016/s1386-5056(01)00183-6.


This paper reviews clinical decision support systems (CDSS) literature, with a focus on evaluation. The literature indicates a general consensus that clinical decision support systems are thought to have the potential to improve care. Evidence is more equivocal for guidelines and for systems to aid physicians with diagnosis. There also is general consensus that a variety of systems are little used despite demonstrated or potential benefits. In the evaluation literature, the main emphasis is on how clinical performance changes. Most studies use an experimental or randomized controlled clinical trials design (RCT) to assess system performance or to focus on changes in clinical performance that could affect patient care. Few studies involve field tests of a CDSS and almost none use a naturalistic design in routine clinical settings with real patients. In addition, there is little theoretical discussion, although papers are permeated by a rationalist perspective that excludes contextual issues related to how and why systems are used. The studies mostly concern physicians rather than other clinicians. Further, CDSS evaluation studies appear to be insulated from evaluations of other informatics applications. Consequently, there is a lack of information useful for understanding why CDSSs may or may not be effective, resulting in making less informed decisions about these technologies and, by extension, other medical informatics applications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic