What Are Clinical Decision Support Tools?

Your Electronic Health Record (EHR) system is more than a medical record. It can also help you make better decisions about patient care. Clinical decision support tools are a core component of EHRs. These tools can alert you to potential errors, remind you to provide preventive care, help you make diagnoses, and assist you with treatment plans.

Most EHRs have both basic and advanced decision support tools built-in. These vary from simple reminders and alerts to complex tools that support adherence to clinical guidelines. Here is what you need to know about basic and advanced clinical decision support tools. 

Basic Clinical Decision Support Tools: Alerts, Reminders, and Templates

The benefits of EHRs reduce errors and improve patient care with simple reminders, alerts, and templates. Reminders urge clinicians to provide preventive care like vaccines and cancer screenings at regular intervals. Providing timely, appropriate preventive care to all patients can improve your population health and quality scores. 

EHR alerts can notify clinicians about potential errors in prescriptions or other orders. For example, your EHR can automatically flag inaccurate medication doses or frequencies. EHRs can also use patient data to identify allergies or drug interactions before you file a prescription. Alerts can also warn you of duplicate test orders, helping you increase efficiency.

Templates can help your practice document diagnoses, adverse events, and treatment plans. For example, if a patient has an adverse event like a fall, your EHR templates can automatically prompt you to capture the information required by regulators or insurance companies. EHR forms can also help your practice meet legal and regulatory requirements. Your EHR can automatically require clinicians to use templates that ensure complete documentation of diagnoses and treatments. These templates can also help support claims and billing needs. 

Reminders, alerts, and templates are simple tools, and overuse can create alert fatigue. By tailoring reminders and alerts to key practice needs, you can help your practice improve quality, reduce errors, and increase reimbursement

Advanced Clinical Decision Support Tools: Guidelines, Recommendations, and Pathways

Clinical decision support tools go far beyond reminders and alerts. Using advanced analytics, your EHR can help you make diagnoses and adhere to clinical guidelines and recommendations. These tools help your practice tailor treatment plans to each patient, taking into account the latest recommendations.

Because medicine is continually advancing, it is challenging for clinicians to keep up with all changes to guidelines and recommendations. Your EHR can help you keep up with the latest evidence by providing essential guidelines and recommendations at the point of care. For example, these tools can display the latest care guidelines when you enter a relevant diagnosis or order. This serves as a reminder to clinicians of the current standard for evidence-based care. These reminders save clinicians time while improving the quality of care patients receive. Your EHR can also alert you when care plans or orders deviate from guidelines or recommendations.

EHR clinical decision support tools can also support a proper diagnosis. These advanced tools can analyze patient data, suggest additional diagnoses, and identify diagnostic errors. Misdiagnosis wastes time and resources and reduces patient satisfaction. By checking for diagnostic errors, your EHR can help you improve the quality and value of the care you provide.

Some insurance companies have created care pathways, particularly in oncology. By following the care pathway, you can ensure reimbursement. Your EHR can link to care pathways to help you adhere to them for relevant patients. While these pathways may not be appropriate for every patient, clinical decision support tools can help your practice use them where possible. By adhering to pathways, you can reduce claims denials and increase reimbursement from participating insurance companies.

Similarly, beginning in 2022, providers will be required to consult a clinical decision support tool before ordering advanced imaging for Medicare patients. Through this Appropriate Use Criteria (AUC) Program, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services seeks to reduce unnecessary testing. While your practice may still order tests that are not recommended by the tool, your reimbursement may be affected.

Advanced clinical decision support tools do not replace clinician judgment. Instead, these tools support you to help you make informed, higher-quality decisions. They can also make your practice more efficient. In a user-friendly EHR system, these tools provide critical diagnostic and treatment evidence at the point of care, right when it is needed. Studies show that practices using EHR-based clinical decision support tools are more likely to provide high-quality, guidelines-based care. 

How Can Clinical Decision Support Tools Help Your Practice

Advanced clinical decision support tools can help your practice stay on the cutting edge without extensive research time. By giving you the latest guidelines for the right patients at the right time, these tools can help you provide better, safer patient care. They can also support accurate, timely diagnosis, reducing the wasted time and resources associated with misdiagnosis. Your EHR can also help your practice adhere to care pathways where appropriate, reducing claims denials.

Basic tools like reminders, alerts, and templates can also help your practice improve quality and reduce errors. Reminders can increase the share of patients receiving on-time preventive care, helping you increase quality scores and improve population health. Alerts and warnings can prevent medication errors and duplicate testing, saving your practice time and money. Also, forms can help ensure you have the right documentation for reimbursement or for meeting reporting requirements. 

Studies have shown that clinical decision support tools reduce errors, increase care quality, and improve practice efficiency. Including clinical decision support tools in your EHR workflow is important for maximizing the benefit of your EHR.

How TempDev Can Help

TempDev’s consultants are NextGen EHR experts. TempDev can help you customize the clinical decision support tools built into your NextGen EHR. TempDev’s consultants can also help you optimize your workflows to get the most out of these tools. 

Call us at 888.TEMP.DEV, or contact us here to get started with NextGen’s clinical decision support tools.  

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