, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 442-446
Date: 29 Mar 2008

A Mixed Method Study of the Merits of E-Prescribing Drug Alerts in Primary Care

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Abstract

Objectives

The objective of this paper was to describe primary care prescribers’ perspectives on electronic prescribing drug alerts at the point of prescribing.

Design

We used a mixed-method study which included clinician surveys (web-based and paper) and focus groups with prescribers and staff.

Participants

Prescribers (n = 157) working in one of 64 practices using 1 of 6 e-prescribing technologies in 6 US states completed the quantitative survey and 276 prescribers and staff participated in focus groups.

Measurements

The study measures self-reported frequency of overriding of drug alerts; open-ended responses to: “What do you think of the drug alerts your software generates for you?”

Results

More than 40% of prescribers indicated they override drug–drug interactions most of the time or always (range by e-prescribing system, 25% to 50%). Participants indicated that the software and the interaction alerts were beneficial to patient safety and valued seeing drug–drug interactions for medications prescribed by others. However, they noted that alerts are too sensitive and often unnecessary. Participant suggestions included: (1) run drug alerts on an active medication list and (2) allow prescribers to set the threshold for severity of alerts.

Conclusions

Primary care prescribers recognize the patient safety value of drug prescribing alerts embedded within electronic prescribing software. Improvements to increase specificity and reduce alert overload are needed.