Background: Computerized clinical decision support systems (CCDSSs) for drug therapy management are designed to promote safe and effective medication use. Evidence documenting the effectiveness of CCDSSs for improving drug therapy is necessary for informed adoption decisions. The objective of this review was to systematically review randomized controlled trials assessing the effects of CCDSSs for drug therapy management on process of care and patient outcomes. We also sought to identify system and study characteristics that predicted benefit.
Methods: We conducted a decision-maker-researcher partnership systematic review. We updated our earlier reviews (1998, 2005) by searching MEDLINE, EMBASE, EBM Reviews, Inspec, and other databases, and consulting reference lists through January 2010. Authors of 82% of included studies confirmed or supplemented extracted data. We included only randomized controlled trials that evaluated the effect on process of care or patient outcomes of a CCDSS for drug therapy management compared to care provided without a CCDSS. A study was considered to have a positive effect (i.e., CCDSS showed improvement) if at least 50% of the relevant study outcomes were statistically significantly positive.
Results: Sixty-five studies met our inclusion criteria, including 41 new studies since our previous review. Methodological quality was generally high and unchanged with time. CCDSSs improved process of care performance in 37 of the 59 studies assessing this type of outcome (64%, 57% of all studies). Twenty-nine trials assessed patient outcomes, of which six trials (21%, 9% of all trials) reported improvements.
Conclusions: CCDSSs inconsistently improved process of care measures and seldomly improved patient outcomes. Lack of clear patient benefit and lack of data on harms and costs preclude a recommendation to adopt CCDSSs for drug therapy management.