Physicians Ignoring Medical Alerts on Their Computers

Doctors prescribe medication to their patients. This is a life and death situation. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association‘s calculations, in the US, there are 106,000 deaths per year from non-error, adverse reactions from FDA approved medications.

That’s non-error reactions. That’s not even including the deaths caused by errors in prescribing these medications.

Look at this excerpt that I found from a PDF I found on Modern Health Care that talks about a common problem we as patients are unknowingly facing:

The most commonly cited obstacle to effective use of drug decision support is “alert fatigue” related to notifications. Intended to help clinicians, alerts are periodic pop-ups or notifications generated by the system to draw attention to issues such as contraindications and potential allergic responses. Since healthcare providers today must retain so much information, these electronic alerts aim to ease the burden of having to remember volumes of clinical data. A problem arises, however, when alerts are excessive and irrelevant, and providers begin to ignore or override them.

One Pennsylvanian physician said“I honestly haven’t paid attention to a pop-up alert in years. I just click right through them as quickly as possible and I think most doctors do the same thing.”

Am I the only person who feels that this doctor should have his license re-evaluated?

Sure, sometimes those alerts may say things like, “Take with milk to avoid a belly ache.”  But it could also say something like, “Mixing this medication with _____ may result in death.”

Am I alone in feeling like this fact means that doctors’ rushing through the alerts without reading them is unacceptable?

“Certainly,” I tell myself, “This behavior is only owned by a small percentage of doctors prescribing medication.”

But no, according to the JAMA article, “Clinicians get used to ignoring alerts, overriding them a reported 49-96 percent of the time.”

49 to 96 percent of the time?!

All the more reason for each of us to take a more active role in our own healthcare.


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