Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 442–446

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


    • Department of Community HealthBrown Medical School
  • Molly E. Waring
    • Department of Community HealthBrown Medical School
  • Karen L. Schneider
    • Department of Community HealthBrown Medical School
  • Catherine Dubé
    • Department of Community HealthBrown Medical School
    • Institute for Community Health PromotionBrown Medical School
  • Brian J. Quilliam
    • College of PharmacyUniversity of Rhode Island
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-008-0505-4

Cite this article as:
Lapane, K.L., Waring, M.E., Schneider, K.L. et al. J GEN INTERN MED (2008) 23: 442. doi:10.1007/s11606-008-0505-4



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


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


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.


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?”


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.


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.


e-prescribingelectronic prescribingdrug alertsprimary caremedication use

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2008