Health care is a very interrupt driven environment - new physician orders, diagnostic study results, alerts/alarms from surveillance can demand immediate attention. Many vendors are trying to improve messaging at the point of care, and to those who support caregivers. Blogger Dean Sittig (also Northwest Permanente's director of applied
research in medical informatics) just published a paper on physician adoption of electronic clinical alerts and
reminders.in the February issue of the journal BioMed Central
Medical Informatics and Decision Making
.

For the report, 110
Northwest Permanente physicians were surveyed in the summer of 2004, and they
were asked various questions on a 1-to-5 scale with 1 being "never" and 5
meaning "always." Using this scale, general positive responses were given for
the statements "It helps me take better care of my patients," 3.5; "It's worth
the time it takes," 3.5; and "It reminds me of something I had forgotten about,"
3.1.

A cynic might observe that these scores only go to show the perfection and infallibility attained by physicians.

[Among physicians, they found] that 80%
of those surveyed said they were less likely to accept alerts when they were
behind schedule, and 84% said they were at least 20 minutes behind schedule
some, most or all of the time. "As a designer of clinical information systems, I
thought I was making the alerts for people who were behind," Sittig said. He
added that alerts are intended to help physicians in times of stress -- such as
when they are behind schedule -- but the solution to this problem may be beyond
software or engineering's ability to solve. "We really need to give physicians
more time," Sittig said. "That's what we need to do."

The results of this study should become part of buyer's vendor selection criteria, and provide valuable feedback for software designer. You can read the study here.

[Hat tip: Health IT Strategist]