Electronic health record alerts for acute kidney injury: multicenter, randomized clinical trial

BMJ. 2021 Jan 18;372:m4786. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m4786.


Objective: To determine whether electronic health record alerts for acute kidney injury would improve patient outcomes of mortality, dialysis, and progression of acute kidney injury.

Design: Double blinded, multicenter, parallel, randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Six hospitals (four teaching and two non-teaching) in the Yale New Haven Health System in Connecticut and Rhode Island, US, ranging from small community hospitals to large tertiary care centers.

Participants: 6030 adult inpatients with acute kidney injury, as defined by the Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) creatinine criteria.

Interventions: An electronic health record based "pop-up" alert for acute kidney injury with an associated acute kidney injury order set upon provider opening of the patient's medical record.

Main outcome measures: A composite of progression of acute kidney injury, receipt of dialysis, or death within 14 days of randomization. Prespecified secondary outcomes included outcomes at each hospital and frequency of various care practices for acute kidney injury.

Results: 6030 patients were randomized over 22 months. The primary outcome occurred in 653 (21.3%) of 3059 patients with an alert and in 622 (20.9%) of 2971 patients receiving usual care (relative risk 1.02, 95% confidence interval 0.93 to 1.13, P=0.67). Analysis by each hospital showed worse outcomes in the two non-teaching hospitals (n=765, 13%), where alerts were associated with a higher risk of the primary outcome (relative risk 1.49, 95% confidence interval 1.12 to 1.98, P=0.006). More deaths occurred at these centers (15.6% in the alert group v 8.6% in the usual care group, P=0.003). Certain acute kidney injury care practices were increased in the alert group but did not appear to mediate these outcomes.

Conclusions: Alerts did not reduce the risk of our primary outcome among patients in hospital with acute kidney injury. The heterogeneity of effect across clinical centers should lead to a re-evaluation of existing alerting systems for acute kidney injury.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02753751.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / diagnosis*
  • Acute Kidney Injury / mortality
  • Acute Kidney Injury / therapy
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Disease Progression
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electronic Health Records / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / organization & administration*
  • Middle Aged
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02753751