Background: In intensive care environments, technology is omnipresent whereby ensuring constant monitoring and the administration of critical drugs to unstable patients. A clinical decision support system (CDSS), with its widespread possibilities, can be a valuable tool in supporting adequate patient care. However, it is still unclear how decision support alerts should be presented to physicians and other medical staff to ensure that they are used most effectively.
Objective: To determine the effect of four different alert presentation methods on alert compliance after the implementation of an advanced CDSS on the intensive care unit (ICU) in our hospital.
Methods: A randomized clinical trial was executed from August 2010 till December 2011, which included all patients admitted to the ICU of our hospital. The CDSS applied contained a set of thirteen locally developed clinical rules. The percentage of alert compliance was compared for four alert presentation methods: pharmacy intervention, physician alert list, electronic health record (EHR) section and pop-up alerts. Additionally, surveys were held to determine the method most preferred by users of the CDSS.
Results: In the study period, the CDSS generated 902 unique alerts, primarily due to drug dosing during decreased renal function and potassium disturbances. Alert compliance was highest for recommendations offered in pop-up alerts (41%, n=68/166), followed by pharmacy intervention (33%, n=80/244), the physician alert list (20%, n=40/199) and the EHR section (19%, n=55/293). The method most preferred by clinicians was pharmacy intervention, and pop-up alerts were found suitable as well if applied correctly. The physician alert list and EHR section were not considered suitable for CDSSs in the process of this study.
Conclusion: The alert presentation method used for CDSSs is crucial for the compliance with alerts for the clinical rules and, consequently, for the efficacy of these systems. Active alerts such as pop-ups and pharmacy intervention were more effective than passive alerts, which do not automatically appear within the clinical workflow. In this pilot study, ICU clinicians also preferred pharmacy intervention and pop-up alerts. More research is required to expand these results to other departments and other hospitals, as well as to other types of CDSSs and different alert presentation methods.
Keywords: Alert presentation method; Clinical decision support systems; Clinical rules; Intensive care; Medication alerts systems.
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