Objective: To review all randomized clinical trials addressing the efficacy of clinical information systems and to determine the clinical settings, types of interventions, and effects studied.
Data sources: Extensive and systematic MEDLINE searches were conducted using a combination of medical subject headings (MeSH) and textword terms to collect trial reports. Manual searches of books and monographs as well as informal contacts were also used.
Study selection: The eligibility criteria were (1) randomized controlled clinical trial, (2) computerized information intervention in the study group, and (3) effect measured on the process or outcome of care.
Data extraction: Two research assistants independently abstracted from the selected reports the following structured information: trial sites, computerized interventions, effect variables, and outcomes. Three investigators evaluated the combined list of trial features for setting, intervention, and effect. The statistical analysis included an evaluation of agreement in developing classifications and an analysis of the ratio of positive trial outcomes.
Data synthesis: Most information services were tested in outpatient care (82%), particularly in primary care (66%). The information intervention targeted the provider in 64% of the trials. The effect was primarily measured for the process of care (76%). Provider prompt/reminder, computer-assisted treatment planner, interactive patient education/therapy, and patient prompt/reminder were significantly successful interventions (sign test, P < .05).
Conclusions: Randomized clinical trials confirm that four generic information interventions are active ingredients of computer systems and can make a significant difference in family medicine (physician and patient reminders, treatment planner, and patient education). To manage care and improve quality, primary care computer systems should incorporate these effective information services.