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87% of Physicians Say Quantity of EHR Alerts 'Excessive'

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, March 5, 2013

Today, the issue has shifted. Physicians are missing test results, not because of their volume, although that is a factor, but because of how the systems display data, says Singh. EHR systems typically pile test results alongside notes from colleagues and other communication.

"I would say that it is a similar problem to alarm fatigue where you tend to get desensitized because there are too many alarms going off at once, so in the same way, you tend to get desensitized because there's too many alerts to receive," says Singh.  

"With regard to patient safety, I think this is in the context of missed test results, so the impact may not be the same as someone who may have arrhythmia of the heart and you need to react right away, but the long-term effects of not responding to alerts could lead to eventual patient harm."

The study looked at physicians who were receiving many types of notifications and not just test result notifications, the combination of which Singh says is the main contributor to the information overload physicians are experiencing.

"It wasn't a pure relationship with a number," says Singh. "So it wasn't that physicians who received 100 notes a day were all missing notes or alerts, and people who were receiving less weren't missing alerts or notes. The results were based on the construction of the alerts and the system."

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2 comments on "87% of Physicians Say Quantity of EHR Alerts 'Excessive'"


Chris (3/12/2013 at 5:47 AM)
As somebody who configures systems in hospitals, my experience with physicians is that there is typically a "doctor user forum" where we go and demo the next feature of the system to be implemented. There might be 100 physicians using the system, but only 5 to 10 show up to the meeting, and of those who show up, one physician will say, I need 10 alerts. The other ones agree, and now physicians have the 10 alerts, even though 90 of them might only need 2 or 3. Then we get emails saying, I'm overloaded with alerts, but by then, we have to have another meeting to modify the system, and well, cycle repeats. 10 doctors show up, and well, nothing gets done.

Regulation Room (3/5/2013 at 3:03 PM)
The federal government is updating the National Health Information Technology Strategic Plan. The Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative (CeRI) has partnered with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to facilitate public participation in these efforts. CeRI's participation website (http://planningroom.org/) will provide a forum for understanding the goals and strategies for development of e-health records, health information exchanges and consumer health IT products. It makes it easier for a broad range of interested participants – doctors, patients, caregivers, other healthcare providers and developers – to have their say. If you have any suggestions or comments relating to the adoption of e-Health practices in the US healthcare system, please join the discussion soon when the site launches at http://planningroom.org/