Almost every physician who has typed orders into an electronic health record or e-prescribing system probably has experienced so-called alert fatigue — the frustration of warning after warning popping up before that order is accepted. The alerts are designed to inform physicians of possible patient safety issues, but their frequency and often lack of necessity make them the electronic equivalent of the boy who cried wolf.
As researchers and health care organizations work to alleviate alert fatigue, it’s clear that the answer is to create systems that take human behavior and supplemental patient data into account when writing rules that decide when and why an alert is fired off. That way, the alerts could have more success in their purpose: protecting patient safety.
“The issue of alert fatigue is that we are not just sending alerts that are considered to be irrelevant, but when you get enough of those, even the alerts that are important are disregarded,” said Jon D. Duke, MD, assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Several studies have found the ignore rate for alerts averages between 80% and 90%.
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