Healthcare News & Insights

Study: Docs ignore 96% of drug warning alerts

One benefit of many health IT systems is a feature that automatically warns doctors about potentially dangerous drug interactions or allergy problems. But some recent studies say that doctors ignore those alerts because they receive too many. 

Systems use those alerts to improve patient safety by warning doctors about possible interactions with drugs a patient is already taking, possible allergic reactions, duplicate prescriptions or other adverse events.

However, one study published earlier this month reported that doctors, nurse practitioners and pharmacists pay little attention to prescription alerts. The reasons, according to researchers: Most health IT systems give doctors too many warnings and too much unnecessary information.

Similar conclusions were drawn in another recent study published by the Journal of Hospital Medicine. The study looked at prescription orders that were placed at an academic medical center. Over a one-year period, 1,240 orders generated warnings from the hospital’s computerized provider order entry (CPOE) system — and doctors accepted a total of only 5% of those alerts.

The main problem, according to researchers: When an order is placed, the system displays all possible alerts on the same screen, without any regard the severity of each warning.

The study’s researchers recommend the development and use of systems that do a better job of focusing on the most serious warnings to avoid so-called “alert fatigue” that causes them to be ignored or overridden.

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