Background: Ischemic heart disease (IHD) affects at least 150,000 veterans annually in the United States. Lowering serum cholesterol has been shown to reduce coronary events, cardiac death, and total mortality among high risk patients. Electronic clinical reminders available at the point of care delivery have been developed to improve lipid measurement and management in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Our objective was to report on a hospital-level intervention to implement and encourage use of the electronic clinical reminders.
Methods: The implementation used a quasi-experimental design with a comparison group of hospitals. In the intervention hospitals (N = 3), we used a multi-faceted intervention to encourage use of the electronic clinical reminders. We evaluated the degree of reminder use and how patient-level outcomes varied at the intervention and comparison sites (N = 3), with and without adjusting for self-reported reminder use.
Results: The national electronic clinical reminders were implemented in all of the intervention sites during the intervention period. A total of 5,438 patients with prior diagnosis of ischemic heart disease received care in the six hospitals (3 intervention and 3 comparison) throughout the 12-month intervention. The process evaluation showed variation in use of reminders at each site. Without controlling for provider self-report of use of the reminders, there appeared to be a significant improvement in lipid measurement in the intervention sites (OR 1.96, 95% CI 1.34, 2.88). Controlling for use of reminders, the amount of improvement in lipid measurement in the intervention sites was even greater (OR 2.35, CI 1.96, 2.81). Adjusting for reminder use demonstrated that only one of the intervention hospitals had a significant effect of the intervention. There was no significant change in management of hyperlipidemia associated with the intervention.
Conclusion: There may be some benefit to focused effort to implement electronic clinical reminders, although reminders designed to improve relatively simple tasks, such as ordering tests, may be more beneficial than reminders designed to improve more complex tasks, such as initiating or titrating medications, because of the less complex nature of the task. There is value in monitoring the process, as well as outcome, of an implementation effort.