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Smarter systems help busy doctors remember
Date:12/21/2010

CHICAGO --- Busy doctors can miss important details about a patient's care during an office examination. To prevent that, Northwestern Medicine researchers have created a whip-smart assistant for physicians a new system using electronic health records that alerts doctors during an exam when a patient's care is amiss.

After one year, the software program significantly improved primary care physicians' performance and the health care of patients with such chronic conditions as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The program, a new comprehensive approach tied to a doctor's performance review, also boosted preventive care in vaccinations and cancer and osteoporosis screenings.

The study, done with 40 Northwestern Medicine primary care physicians, will be published Dec. 21 online in the journal Medical Care and in the February print issue.

"It helps us find needles in the haystack and focus on patients who really have outstanding needs that may have slipped between the cracks," said lead author Stephen Persell, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"Quality health care is not just about having good doctors and nurses taking care of you," said Persell, a researcher in the division of general internal medicine. "It's having systems in place that make it easier for them to do their jobs and insure that patients get what they need."

In the new system, an unobtrusive yellow light on the side of a doctor's computer alerts him or her to a message that something is awry with Mr. Jones' care. When the doctor clicks on the light, she may learn Mr. Jones, who has congestive heart failure, hasn't gotten his recommended pneumonia vaccine. Or, perhaps he was taken off his beta-blockers during a recent hospitalization and needs to start them again.

"The pieces of this system aren't new, but putting them
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Contact: Marla Paul
marla-paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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