Decrease in unnecessary vitamin D testing using clinical decision support tools: making it harder to do the wrong thing

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2017 Jul 1;24(4):776-780. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocw182.


Objective: To evaluate the impact of clinical decision support (CDS) tools on rates of vitamin D testing. Screening for vitamin D deficiency has increased in recent years, spurred by studies suggesting vitamin D's clinical benefits. Such screening, however, is often unsupported by evidence and can incur unnecessary costs.

Materials and methods: We evaluated how rates of vitamin D screening changed after we implemented 3 CDS tools in the electronic health record (EHR) of a large health plan: (1) a new vitamin D screening guideline, (2) an alert that requires clinician acknowledgement of current guidelines to continue ordering the test (a "hard stop"), and (3) a modification of laboratory ordering preference lists that eliminates shortcuts. We assessed rates of overall vitamin D screening and appropriate vitamin D screening 6 months pre- and post-intervention.

Results: Vitamin D screening rates decreased from 74.0 tests to 24.2 tests per 1000 members ( P < .0001). The proportion of appropriate vitamin D screening tests increased from 56.2% to 69.7% ( P < .0001), and the proportion of inappropriate screening tests decreased from 43.8% pre-implementation to 30.3% post-implementation ( P < .0001).

Discussion: To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of how CDS can reduce rates of inappropriate vitamin D screening. We used 3 straightforward, inexpensive, and replicable CDS approaches. We know of no previous research on the impact of removing options from a preference list.

Conclusion: Similar approaches could be used to reduce unnecessary care and decrease costs without reducing quality of care.

Keywords: clinical decision support; ordering preference list; vitamin D screening.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Unnecessary Procedures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vitamin D / blood*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / diagnosis*


  • Vitamin D