Doctors Need Electronic Alerts to Remind Them to Perform Correct Procedures: Study

Would you want to be tested for something unnecessarily? Probably not, which is why Kaiser wants to help doctors treat you better.


Electronic medical alerts to doctors may help them think twice about ordering unnecessary diagnostic tests for patients–and reduce costs and the burden of invasive testing on both physicians and patients, a new study out of Kaiser Permanente shows. The specific test in question is called the D-dimer test and can help detect blood clots, but the test has high rates of false-positives.

The study found that when physicians ordered the D-dimer test, but were subsequently alerted about the high rates of false-positives, that they remembered to use radiological tests instead, a type of test that is more accurate.

“Physicians sometimes find it hard to remember to follow evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Many people have suggested that computer generated alerts within electronic medical records may serve as reminders to improve adherence to best practices,” said study lead author Dr. Ted E. Palen in the press release.

Health care institutions have generally had a rough time integrating electronic medical records (EMR) and other software into existing paper-based methods, but Kaiser has been the leader of the pack with its integration of tele-medicine and robots (yes, robots).

“As the health care industry moves to widely adopt EMR technology, it is critical that physicians and other caregivers are given specific and relevant data at the point of care to avoid alert fatigue,” continued Palen.

“This study shows that delivering a very targeted electronic message for a particular patient profile can result not only in better use of the test in question, it can alter a physician’s ordering behavior and promote improved adherence to a clinical practice guideline. This finding is important when designing systems that will support better coordination of patient care.”


The challenge will continue to be how to navigate alert fatigue–but since we rated Kaiser Permanente as a leading innovative company, we’re sure they’ll come up with something.

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About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.