Patient Care

Computer-Based Reminders Have Small to Modest Effect on Care Processes


Clinical question: Do on-screen, computer-based clinical reminders improve adherence to target processes of care or clinical outcomes?

Background: Gaps between practice guidelines and routine care are caused, in part, by the inability of clinicians to access or recall information at the point of care. Although automated reminder systems offer the promise of “just in time” recommendations, studies of electronic reminders have demonstrated mixed results.

Study design: Literature review and meta-analysis.

Setting: Multiple databases and information repositories, including MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CINAHL.

Synopsis: The authors conducted a literature search to identify randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials measuring the effect of computer-based reminders on process measures or clinical outcomes. To avoid statistical challenges inherent in unit-of-analysis errors, the authors reported median improvement in process adherence or median change in clinical endpoints.

Out of a pool of 2,036 citations, 28 studies detailing 32 comparative analyses were included. Across the 28 studies, reminders resulted in a median improvement in target process adherence of 4.2% (3.3% for prescribing behavior, 2.8% for test ordering). Eight comparisons reported dichotomous clinical endpoints and collectively showed a median absolute improvement of 2.5%.

The greatest contribution to measured treatment effects came from large academic centers with well-established electronic health records and robust informatics departments. No characteristics of the reminder system or the clinical context were associated with the magnitude of impact. A potential limitation in reporting median effects across studies is that all studies were given equal weight.

Bottom line: Electronic reminders appear to have a small, positive effect on clinician adherence to recommended processes, although it is uncertain what contextual or design features are responsible for the greatest treatment effect.

Citation: Shojania K, Jennings A, Mayhew A, Ramsay CR, Eccles MP, Grimshaw J. The effects of on-screen, point of care computer reminders on processes and outcomes of care. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009(3):CD001096. TH

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