Medical informatics developers may need to improve alert functionality

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According to an article published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics (IJMA), developers of electronic health records need to improve the way in which physicians are notified of important clinical events to avoid “alert fatigue,” reports Information Week.

Results of a study conducted by researchers at the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Indianapolis suggest that many medical informatics systems are overwhelming physicians with alerts and warnings intended for pharmacists. As a result, many doctors are succumbing to alert fatigue and overlooking potentially important notifications regarding clinical decisions.

“This was one of the first studies to directly observe prescribers as they react to medication alerts,” Alissa Russ, a research scientist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, told the news source. “Addressing alert fatigue is a high priority, but, at the same time, attention needs to be paid to how information is presented to clinicians.”

Other key findings of the report indicate that many physicians are spending more time retrieving data from medical informatics systems as a result of such alerts, which may impact overall operational efficiency.

However, the IJMA article also claims that despite the dangers of alert fatigue, frequent notifications encourage dialogue between patients and physicians in some instances. Recommendations for improving alert systems in clinical informatics systems outlined in the article included greater emphasis on physician-specific notifications and increased user preference functionality.

The researchers in Indianapolis are not alone in their study of the dangers of alert fatigue. According to Health Data Management, George Reynolds, a physician in Nebraska, conducted his own study to determine the extent of alert fatigue in clinical environments. Reynolds used business intelligence software to identify which alerts are most commonly dismissed by clinicians. His research indicated that warnings for the dosage of Albuterol asthma inhalers were among the most frequently ignored medication notifications.