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    Making EHR alerts work for your practice

    How to cut through the noise and make the most out of alerts to improve patient care

    Electronic health record (EHR) pop-up notices, intended to help physicians by providing timely reminders and alerts, could end up actually compromising patient care. Customizing the system and integrating it into the practice workflow is one of the best strategies for appropriately and efficiently using alerts—and avoiding potential alert fatigue.

    If you are a physician experiencing alert fatigue—or feel you may succumb to it—you are not alone. “Alert fatigue is a major issue, and part of the reason is that there is a general overload of warnings and pop-up messages for clinicians throughout the work day,” says Mike Zalis, MD, an interventional radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The avoidance of liability leads to a multiplicity of alerts that are presented to a user while they’re doing their work. The problem with those alerts is that they’re not very well tailored in context or acuity, so there are too many that pop up.”

    Fortunately, physicians can preserve the benefits of EHR-generated alerts while maintaining a smooth workflow in their practice by employing some simple strategies.

    Acclimating to the right system

    Physicians acknowledge that alert fatigue can be a problem, so many have found ways to work with the system instead of against it. Rather than immediately writing off all alerts as useless, it’s essential to understand what EHR systems are capable of doing.

    “We find there are often capabilities in software that are not very well understood by clinicians,” says Michael McCoy, MD, chief health information officer with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC.)

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