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."