Collaborative design and implementation of a clinical decision support system for automated fall-risk identification and referrals in emergency departments

Healthc (Amst). 2022 Mar;10(1):100598. doi: 10.1016/j.hjdsi.2021.100598. Epub 2021 Dec 16.


Of the 3 million older adults seeking fall-related emergency care each year, nearly one-third visited the Emergency Department (ED) in the previous 6 months. ED providers have a great opportunity to refer patients for fall prevention services at these initial visits, but lack feasible tools for identifying those at highest-risk. Existing fall screening tools have been poorly adopted due to ED staff/provider burden and lack of workflow integration. To address this, we developed an automated clinical decision support (CDS) system for identifying and referring older adult ED patients at risk of future falls. We engaged an interdisciplinary design team (ED providers, health services researchers, information technology/predictive analytics professionals, and outpatient Falls Clinic staff) to collaboratively develop a system that successfully met user requirements and integrated seamlessly into existing ED workflows. Our rapid-cycle development and evaluation process employed a novel combination of human-centered design, implementation science, and patient experience strategies, facilitating simultaneous design of the CDS tool and intervention implementation strategies. This included defining system requirements, systematically identifying and resolving usability problems, assessing barriers and facilitators to implementation (e.g., data accessibility, lack of time, high patient volumes, appointment availability) from multiple vantage points, and refining protocols for communicating with referred patients at discharge. ED physician, nurse, and patient stakeholders were also engaged through online surveys and user testing. Successful CDS design and implementation required integration of multiple new technologies and processes into existing workflows, necessitating interdisciplinary collaboration from the onset. By using this iterative approach, we were able to design and implement an intervention meeting all project goals. Processes used in this Clinical-IT-Research partnership can be applied to other use cases involving automated risk-stratification, CDS development, and EHR-facilitated care coordination.

Keywords: Clinical decision support; Electronic health record; Falls; Geriatric emergency medicine; Human-centered design; Implementation; Risk stratification.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls* / prevention & control
  • Aged
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Workflow