Redesigned alerts reduce prescriber errors

Redesigned medical alerts in electronic health records can reduce prescribing errors and provider workloads, and increase user satisfaction, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The study, conducted at the Richard Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, applied human factors engineering principles to improve alert design for three alerts: drug/drug, drug/allergy and drug/disease warnings. They applied principles used in other industries, such as road sign design and medication labeling, provided more detail in the alerts, and used more concise language, according to an announcement. They then used a simulation study with 20 prescribers and fictitious patients to compare the original versus the redesigned alerts.

Even though the prescribers received no training on the redesigned alerts, they found them more usable and resolved them more efficiently. The number of prescribing errors dropped "significantly," their workloads were reduced, and they reported higher satisfaction rates with the new alerts, according to the study's authors.

"Aspects of the redesigned alerts that likely contributed to better prescribing include design modifications that reduced usability-related errors, providing clinical data closer to the point of decision, and displaying alert text in a tabular format," the researchers said. "Displaying alert text in a tabular format may help prescribers extract information quickly and thereby increase responsiveness to alerts."

Other studies have found that well designed and integrated alerts can be improve patient care. Still, too frequent or intrusive clinical decision support alerts can adversely affect patient safety.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the announcement