Electronic health record-based medication alerts might occur too frequently and contain warnings that are too detailed to help busy health care providers, according to a study published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics, FierceHealthIT reports (Terry, FierceHealthIT, 3/29).
When medical devices issue too many audio and visual alerts, health care providers can experience alarm fatigue, which often leads them to ignore or become desensitized to such alerts (iHealthBeat, 3/26).
For the study, researchers from the Regenstrief Institute and the Department of Veterans Affairs followed 30 physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists treating 146 patients in several outpatient clinics (FierceHealthIT, 3/29).
Researchers observed how the health care providers interpreted and responded to 320 medication alerts issued during the study period.
According to the study, many health care providers said that they sometimes were not sure why certain alerts appeared.
Researchers also found that the alerts seemed to target pharmacists more than physicians or nurse practitioners (Oh, Becker's Hospital Review, 3/29).
Alissa Russ -- co-author of the report and a research scientist at the Center of Excellence on Implementing Evidence-Based Practice at Indianapolis' Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center -- said, "Too many alerts and overly detailed alerts are a common source of frustration across electronic medical record systems."
She added, "Unless we improve medication alerts so they contain information that users need to make decisions, the problem of alert fatigue will grow as [EHR] systems expand beyond single hospitals and share more data" (FierceHealthIT, 3/29).