New study analyzes medical staff responses to high volume of medication alerts

Advances in electronic medical records and eprescribing software are allowing healthcare practitioners to improve the speed and quality of care afforded to patients. By digitally processing medication orders and proposed clinical treatments, these technologies can generate medication alerts that provide physicians and other staff members with valuable information suggesting the efficacy of a treatment course.

For example, these alerts can be critical for avoiding errors that could affect patient safety by indicating a doctor has ordered a duplicate prescription or that one medication might generate a negative reaction within a patient prescribed other drugs.

However, there are drawbacks to this system in that if software generates too many alerts, caregivers may experience "alert fatigue," in which they receive so many notifications that they are not all processed appropriately.

In order to study this phenomenon, the research group the Regenstrief Institute and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs undertook a study of 30 doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists caring for more than 140 patients, generating 320 medication alerts.

After analyzing the collected data, it was determined that, at times, the studied participants did not understand why they were receiving an alert and that the alerts were oriented more for the pharmacist's use instead of the physicians who are the primary prescribers. 

However, according to Regenstrief Institute investigator Jason J. Saleem, "When interface usability, workflow integration and potential information overload are addressed, electronic medical records have a tremendous advantage over paper records."

Consequently, in order to enjoy the benefits of EMR and eprescribing deployment, it would be wise for facility managers to partner with a medical technology consulting firm that can tailor a software program to suit the exact needs of the practice and train staff to properly analyze the alerts generated by the system.

Microwize Technology is a leading healthcare IT consultant offering products such as electronic medical records software and medical billing software from top providers like Allscripts and McKesson, including McKesson's Medisoft, Lytec and Practice Choice products.