5 tips for developing EHR alerts

Improving EHR alerts to make more of a medical impact can be achieved by implementing various design tweaks, according to the American Medical Association.

Columbia, Md.-based MedStar Health researchers analyzed EHR alerts for sepsis in a study publish in Health Informatics Journal and created four prototype visual displays.

Despite electronic alerts for sepsis already being in use by organizations, "there are serious shortcomings in existing health information technology for alerting providers in a meaningful way," according to the report.

Additionally, typical EHR alerts are "very binary," so the researchers set out to develop alerts that embody "more sophisticated decision support" rather than a pop-up style, said lead study author Kristen Miller, scientific director of MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare in Washington, D.C., AMA reports.

Here are five presentation elements the researchers used to develop the EHR alert prototypes:

1. Separate patient demographic information from clinical summary and severity data by organizing the different categories into bordered blocks.

2. Practice consistency for information indicators by using the same fonts and colors in all instances.

3. To help emphasize information, use typeface font size and weight, or thickness of the characters.

4. Use colors to organize information, for example, the researchers used dark red to represent alarm.

5. Consider applying three-dimensional effects for users who are colorblind.

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