Medication safety and knowledge-based functions: a stepwise approach against information overload

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The aim was to improve medication safety in an emergency department (ED) by enhancing the integration and presentation of safety information for drug therapy.


Based on an evaluation of safety of drug therapy issues in the ED and a review of computer-assisted intervention technologies we redesigned an electronic case sheet and implemented computer-assisted interventions into the routine work flow. We devised a four step system of alerts, and facilitated access to different levels of drug information. System use was analyzed over a period of 6 months. In addition, physicians answered a survey based on the technology acceptance model TAM2.


The new application was implemented in an informal manner to avoid work flow disruption. Log files demonstrated that step I, ‘valid indication’ was utilized for 3% of the recorded drugs and step II ‘tooltip for well-known drug risks’ for 48% of the drugs. In the questionnaire, the computer-assisted interventions were rated better than previous paper based measures (checklists, posters) with regard to usefulness, support of work and information quality.


A stepwise assisting intervention received positive user acceptance. Some intervention steps have been seldom used, others quite often. We think that we were able to avoid over-alerting and work flow intrusion in a critical ED environment.

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