Clinical decision support improves blood culture collection before intravenous antibiotic administration in the emergency department

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2022 Sep 12;29(10):1705-1714. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocac115.


Objective: Surviving Sepsis guidelines recommend blood cultures before administration of intravenous (IV) antibiotics for patients with sepsis or moderate to high risk of bacteremia. Clinical decision support (CDS) that reminds emergency department (ED) providers to obtain blood cultures when ordering IV antibiotics may lead to improvements in this process measure.

Methods: This was a multicenter causal impact analysis comparing timely blood culture collections prior to IV antibiotics for adult ED patients 1 year before and after a CDS intervention implementation in the electronic health record. A Bayesian structured time-series model compared daily timely blood cultures collected compared to a forecasted synthetic control. Mixed effects models evaluated the impact of the intervention controlling for confounders.

Results: The analysis included 54 538 patients over 2 years. In the baseline phase, 46.1% had blood cultures prior to IV antibiotics, compared to 58.8% after the intervention. Causal impact analysis determined an absolute increase of 13.1% (95% CI 10.4-15.7%) of timely blood culture collections overall, although the difference in patients with a sepsis diagnosis or who met CDC Adult Sepsis Event criteria was not significant, absolute difference 8.0% (95% CI -0.2 to 15.8). Blood culture positivity increased in the intervention phase, and contamination rates were similar in both study phases.

Discussion: CDS improved blood culture collection before IV antibiotics in the ED, without increasing overutilization.

Conclusion: A simple CDS alert increased timely blood culture collections in ED patients for whom concern for infection was high enough to warrant IV antibiotics.

Keywords: antibiotic stewardship; clinical decision support; emergency medicine; sepsis.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Blood Culture
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sepsis* / diagnosis
  • Sepsis* / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents