A study earlier this year from the University of Missouri showed that most patients took a dim view of doctors who make use of clinical decision support technology.
Researchers found that patients saw physicians who use CDS as somehow less capable than those who don't. They saw the IT tools as impersonal, and thought the systems were a barrier between them and their caregivers.
That's the wrong way to think about it, says John Hoyt, executive vice president, HIMSS Analytics.
"They just need to understand it's not taking the place of their physician," he says. "It's an aid and reminder of the latest peer-reviewed advice and best practice alerts, etc."
It can "touchy," says Hoyt, because it may suggest, "subconsciously, that your physician is flawed, that he has a human brain – that may be a shock to some people."
But far from being a cheat, or a crutch to be leaned upon, decision support is an essential tool in the clinician's arsenal. Especially nowadays.
"Things get complex," he says. "A good physician will go out and search the literature. In days of old, they used to spend time in the medical library. But now we can bring it to their faces, at the moment."
But there's a fine line between that and "in your face," as it were.
Designing CDS to supply relevant information – at the right time and place – without risking physician alert fatigue, "is an art," said Hoyt. "We don't want to remind the physician, 'Hey, we've got a patient with high cholesterol, order a lipid test.' For God's sake, they know that."
It's even worse in the pharmacy: "Every minute, today, in these hospitals, the pharmacists are getting alerts that are far more detailed and hypnotic than the physicians get."
But clinical and business intelligence technology is changing, evolving – and getting smarter.
"Now that we've had electronic medical records for years, we have data," says Hoyt. "And we now can do some real analysis of our practice patterns and our outcomes. This is now mega data analytics. But eventually you can bring it to the bedside as well: 'From our experience, here at Acme Hospital, we have learned that . . . ’ And you can now deliver that content to the physicians at the bedside."
For the most part, most decision support content is still purchased from sources like Zynx Health and Milliman, he says. But lately, bit by bit, "organizations that are doing their data analytics are seeing their practice patterns" – seeing what works and what doesn't – "and they're able to deliver that data to the bedside."