Alerts sent to physicians through electronic health record systems can help decrease unnecessary medical tests when the messages are more targeted and less cluttered by the presence of other alerts, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Managed Care, Computerworld reports (Mearian, Computerworld, 11/5).
The study, conducted by Kaiser Permanente's Institute for Health Research, involved a randomized trial of 223,877 visits by patients ages 65 and older, in addition to 564,264 visits by patients younger than age 65 (Goedert, Health Data Management, 11/5).
Researchers focused on a blood test called the D-dimer, which is used to diagnose deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. The test has an accuracy rate of only 35% for patients older than age 65 (McKinney, Modern Healthcare, 11/5).
When physicians ordered the test for elderly patients, Kaiser's EHR system sent an alert telling physicians that the test was inaccurate for elderly patients. Instead, the alert suggested conducting a radiology test (Health Data Management, 11/5).
The percentage of physicians ordering the D-dimer tests fell by almost 70% (Modern Healthcare, 11/5).
Design of Alerts
EHR systems can be designed to provide alerts, but physicians might feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they receive and could ignore the alerts, according to Computerworld.
However, targeted alerts could be more beneficial for physicians.
Ted Palen -- the study's lead author and a clinician researcher at the Institute for Health Research -- said, "The more those alerts can be targeted, the less likely they are to be ignored" (Computerworld, 11/5).