Electronic alerts to prevent venous thromboembolism among hospitalized patients

N Engl J Med. 2005 Mar 10;352(10):969-77. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa041533.


Background: Prophylaxis against deep-vein thrombosis in hospitalized patients remains underused. We hypothesized that the use of a computer-alert program to encourage prophylaxis might reduce the frequency of deep-vein thrombosis among high-risk hospitalized patients.

Methods: We developed a computer program linked to the patient database to identify consecutive hospitalized patients at risk for deep-vein thrombosis in the absence of prophylaxis. The program used medical-record numbers to randomly assign 1255 eligible patients to an intervention group, in which the responsible physician was alerted to a patient's risk of deep-vein thrombosis, and 1251 patients to a control group, in which no alert was issued. The physician was required to acknowledge the alert and could then withhold or order prophylaxis, including graduated compression stockings, pneumatic compression boots, unfractionated heparin, low-molecular-weight heparin, or warfarin. The primary end point was clinically diagnosed, objectively confirmed deep-vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism at 90 days.

Results: More patients in the intervention group than in the control group received mechanical prophylaxis (10.0 percent vs. 1.5 percent, P<0.001) or pharmacologic prophylaxis (23.6 percent vs. 13.0 percent, P<0.001). The primary end point occurred in 61 patients (4.9 percent) in the intervention group, as compared with 103 (8.2 percent) in the control group; the Kaplan-Meier estimates of the likelihood of freedom from deep-vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism at 90 days were 94.1 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 92.5 to 95.4 percent) and 90.6 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 88.7 to 92.2 percent), respectively (P<0.001). The computer alert reduced the risk of deep-vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism at 90 days by 41 percent (hazard ratio, 0.59; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.43 to 0.81; P=0.001).

Conclusions: The institution of a computer-alert program increased physicians' use of prophylaxis and markedly reduced the rates of deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism among hospitalized patients at risk.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Bandages / statistics & numerical data*
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospital Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Embolism / prevention & control*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Reminder Systems*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Software*
  • Thromboembolism / prevention & control
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control*


  • Anticoagulants