Retrospective descriptive assessment of clinical decision support medication-related alerts in two Saudi Arabian hospitals

BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2022 Apr 15;22(1):101. doi: 10.1186/s12911-022-01838-1.


Objectives: To determine the frequency of clinical decision support system (CDSS) medication-related alerts generated, accepted, or overridden, to assess appropriateness of alert display and overrides, and to characterise the documentation of clinician justification for these overrides in an academic medical centre in Saudi Arabia.

Materials and methods: System-generated CDSS reports for the period June 2015 to December 2017 were retrospectively reviewed and analysed. Alerts were classified into different types, and rates of alert overrides calculated as percentages of all generated alerts. A subset of 307 overridden alerts was assessed for appropriateness of display and override by two clinical pharmacists. Physician documentation of reasons for overriding alerts were categorised.

Results: A total of 4,446,730 medication-related alerts were generated from both inpatient and outpatient settings, and 4,231,743 (95.2%) were overridden. The most common alert type was 'duplicate drug', accounting for 3,549,736 (79.8%) of alerts. Of 307 alerts assessed for appropriateness, 246 (80%) were judged to be appropriately displayed and 244 (79%) were overridden appropriately. New drug allergy and drug allergy alerts had the highest percentage of being judged as inappropriately overridden. For 1,594,313 alerts (37.7%), 'no overridden reason selected' was chosen from the drop-down menu.

Conclusions: The alert generation and override rate were higher than reported previously in the literature. The small sample size of 307 alerts assessed for appropriateness of alert display and override is a potential limitation. Revision of the CDSS rules for alerts (focusing on specificity and relevance for the local context) is now recommended. Future research should prospectively assess providers' perspectives, and determine patient harm associated with overridden alerts.

Keywords: Clinical (MeSH); Computerised provider order systems (MeSH); Decision support systems; Medication alert systems (MeSH); Medication error (MeSH).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Drug Hypersensitivity*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Medical Order Entry Systems*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Saudi Arabia