Purpose: Clinical guidelines are designed to assist in the management of specific diseases; however, these guidelines are often neglected in the delivery of care. The purpose of this study was to determine whether clinician use of an clinical practice guideline would increase in response to having, at the patient visit, a decision support system based on a practice guideline that generates a customized management protocol for the individual patient using data from the patient's electronic medical record.
Subjects and methods: In a 6-month controlled trial at a primary care clinic, 58 primary care clinicians were randomized to receive either a special encounter form with the computer-generated guideline recommendations or a standard encounter form. The effect of computer-generated advice on clinician behavior was measured as rate of compliance with guideline recommendations. Data from 30 clinicians were analyzed; data from 28 clinicians were excluded because these clinicians did not meet predefined criteria for minimum exposure to diabetic patient care.
Results: Availability of patient management recommendations generated by the decision support system resulted in a two-fold increase in clinician compliance with care guidelines for diabetes mellitus (P = 0.01). Median compliance for the group receiving the recommendations was 32.0% versus 15.6% for the control group.
Conclusion: Decision support based on a clinical practice guideline is an effective tool for assisting clinicians in the management of diabetic patients. This decision support system provides a model for how a clinical practice guideline can be integrated into the care process by computer to assist clinicians in managing a specific disease through helping them comply with care standards. Use of decision support systems based on clinical practice guidelines could ultimately improve the quality of medical care.