Alert Fatigue and Clinical Decision Support

Posted on May 10, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Clinical Decision Support has been called out as an important part of an EMR system. You’ll get no argument from me on this. What I have been thinking a lot about is what people call “Alert Fatigue.” For those unfamiliar with the term, it basically means that a doctor gets so many alerts that they grow numb to the alerts and stop looking at them. For those that are married, it’s like your wife’s nagging. It happens so much that you stop listening (ok, that was a joke. I hope none of us do that or have reached that point. I’m just lucky to have a wife who doesn’t nag).

I think this concept of “alert fatigue” is really important and I think it will be impossible to create an EMR that strikes the perfect balance. Some EMR offer too many alerts and some probably offer too few. So, my question for you is which side should we adopt? Is it better to have too many alerts which doctors then might ignore or is it better to have too few alerts and not be alerted to something important?

There’s some real challenging issues associated with both. Liability unfortunately being a major part of each. Where do you stand on this issue?