Purpose of review: Default options dramatically influence the behavior of decision makers and may serve as effective decision support tools in the ICU. Their use in medicine has increased in an effort to improve efficiency, reduce errors, and harness the potential of healthcare technology.
Recent findings: Defaults often fall short of their predicted influence when employed in critical care settings as quality improvement interventions. Investigations reporting the use of defaults are often limited by variations in the relative effect across sites. Preimplementation experiments and long-term monitoring studies are lacking.
Summary: Defaults in the ICU may help or harm patients and clinical efficiency depending on their format and use. When constructing and encountering defaults, providers should be aware of their powerful and complex influences on decision making. Additional evaluations of the appropriate creation of healthcare defaults and their resulting intended and unintended consequences are needed.