Effects of patients' hospital discharge preferences on uptake of clinical decision support

PLoS One. 2021 Mar 8;16(3):e0247270. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0247270. eCollection 2021.


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services identified unplanned hospital readmissions as a critical healthcare quality and cost problem. Improvements in hospital discharge decision-making and post-discharge care are needed to address the problem. Utilization of clinical decision support (CDS) can improve discharge decision-making but little is known about the empirical significance of two opposing problems that can occur: (1) negligible uptake of CDS by providers or (2) over-reliance on CDS and underuse of other information. This paper reports an experiment where, in addition to electronic medical records (EMR), clinical decision-makers are provided subjective reports by standardized patients, or CDS information, or both. Subjective information, reports of being eager or reluctant for discharge, was obtained during examinations of standardized patients, who are regularly employed in medical education, and in our experiment had been given scripts for the experimental treatments. The CDS tool presents discharge recommendations obtained from econometric analysis of data from de-identified EMR of hospital patients. 38 clinical decision-makers in the experiment, who were third and fourth year medical students, discharged eight simulated patient encounters with an average length of stay 8.1 in the CDS supported group and 8.8 days in the control group. When the recommendation was "Discharge," CDS uptake of "Discharge" recommendation was 20% higher for eager than reluctant patients. Compared to discharge decisions in the absence of patient reports: (i) odds of discharging reluctant standardized patients were 67% lower in the CDS-assisted group and 40% lower in the control (no-CDS) group; whereas (ii) odds of discharging eager standardized patients were 75% higher in the control group and similar in CDS-assisted group. These findings indicate that participants were neither ignoring nor over-relying on CDS.