Healthcare News & Insights

Report: Why doctors ignore EHR immunization reminders

One of the benefits of electronic health record (EHR) systems is that they can help keep patients up to date on treatment and preventive care plans by offering automatic reminders for doctors. However, just because those reminders are offered doesn’t mean treatment always takes place. 

One of the most common types of reminders are warnings that notify a doctor when a patient is due for an immunization. Those warnings can help save time and money and improve care by preventing illnesses.

A recent study published in the journal BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making looked at EHR systems’ immunization reminders and how doctors reacted to them. Researchers found that those reminders often aren’t followed by doctors and patients.

The main obstacles to following immunization reminders:

  1. Limited financial and human resources — To make effective use of the reminders, healthcare providers must convert paper immunization records into electronic data. Without accurate records — including data from other providers — schedules may be out of line and reminders may be generated for patients that’ve already gotten immunizations.
  2. Alert fatigue — Some experts say EHR systems bombard doctors with too many warnings and notifications — for example, drug interaction warnings — that they tend to ignore most of the alerts the system offers. In many cases, a reminder about immunization schedules may be low on the severity list compared to other alerts that appear during the same visit.
  3. Questions about accuracy — There may some differing opinions about the schedules recommended for certain immunizations, and doctors may disagree with the timeframes suggested by their EHR system.
  4. Expectations about duties — According to researchers, doctors often don’t mention the immunization reminders to patients simply because they believe it’s someone else’s responsibility to do it — for example, the administrative staff member who schedules appointments. However, once doctors are informed they should take the responsibility, most of them do so.

If immunization reminders are ignored, that means a healthcare organization may not be getting the most out of its EHR system. Organization should determine whether or not doctors are using those and other alerts — and if not, what the reasons are.

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