The Communicating Narrative Concerns Entered by Registered Nurses (CONCERN) Clinical Decision Support Early Warning System: Protocol for a Cluster Randomized Pragmatic Clinical Trial

JMIR Res Protoc. 2021 Dec 10;10(12):e30238. doi: 10.2196/30238.


Background: Every year, hundreds of thousands of inpatients die from cardiac arrest and sepsis, which could be avoided if those patients' risk for deterioration were detected and timely interventions were initiated. Thus, a system is needed to convert real-time, raw patient data into consumable information that clinicians can utilize to identify patients at risk of deterioration and thus prevent mortality and improve patient health outcomes. The overarching goal of the COmmunicating Narrative Concerns Entered by Registered Nurses (CONCERN) study is to implement and evaluate an early warning score system that provides clinical decision support (CDS) in electronic health record systems. With a combination of machine learning and natural language processing, the CONCERN CDS utilizes nursing documentation patterns as indicators of nurses' increased surveillance to predict when patients are at the risk of clinical deterioration.

Objective: The objective of this cluster randomized pragmatic clinical trial is to evaluate the effectiveness and usability of the CONCERN CDS system at 2 different study sites. The specific aim is to decrease hospitalized patients' negative health outcomes (in-hospital mortality, length of stay, cardiac arrest, unanticipated intensive care unit transfers, and 30-day hospital readmission rates).

Methods: A multiple time-series intervention consisting of 3 phases will be performed through a 1-year period during the cluster randomized pragmatic clinical trial. Phase 1 evaluates the adoption of our algorithm through pilot and trial testing, phase 2 activates optimized versions of the CONCERN CDS based on experience from phase 1, and phase 3 will be a silent release mode where no CDS is viewable to the end user. The intervention deals with a series of processes from system release to evaluation. The system release includes CONCERN CDS implementation and user training. Then, a mixed methods approach will be used with end users to assess the system and clinician perspectives.

Results: Data collection and analysis are expected to conclude by August 2022. Based on our previous work on CONCERN, we expect the system to have a positive impact on the mortality rate and length of stay.

Conclusions: The CONCERN CDS will increase team-based situational awareness and shared understanding of patients predicted to be at risk for clinical deterioration in need of intervention to prevent mortality and associated harm.

Trial registration: NCT03911687;

International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/30238.

Keywords: clinical decision support system; clinical trial; deterioration; early warning system; natural language processing; nursing documentation; prediction.

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