Clinical decision support software may decrease orders for MRI, CT scans, study finds

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Clinical decision support software designed to help guide physicians' imaging decisions may reduce MRI and CT scan orders, according to a study published in PLOS One.

Researchers at Cambridge-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee conducted a yearlong, randomized trial to analyze how CDS software impacted providers' ordering behavior for imaging. The trial comprised 3,511 Aurora Health Care providers, half of whom were randomly assigned to receive the CDS tool. The providers without access to the CDS software were instructed to continue their usual imaging order behavior.

"Going in, we didn't know whether doctors in the treatment group would be receptive to the technology," Joseph Doyle, PhD, one of the study's authors and the Erwin H. Schell professor of management and applied economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said in a news release emailed to Becker's Hospital Review. "If the system recommended a different test from the one that was ordered, would the physician consider changing course?"

Results of the study showed the CDS tool helped decrease targeted scans by an estimated 6 percent, with CT scans being responsible for four-fifths of the overall reduction.

"Our study was meant to understand whether software alone has potential to help doctors improve their decision-making around ordering these expensive and often risky tests because such an intervention is easily scaled," Dr. Doyle said. "Further understanding of the most effective ways to employ the technology beyond simply showing the information about the guidelines remains an important area for future research."

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