Everything You Need To Know About Alert Fatigue And How To Prevent It

By TotalMD On Tuesday, August 14 th, 2018 · In eNewsletter Tags : ehr software


We live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with information, so remembering everything is virtually impossible. There is a limited amount of information we can manage in our brains, and that’s where technology comes in: to store that information for us and remind us what we need to know when we need to know it.

Everyone who owns a smartphone probably gets several alerts a week reminding them of an appointment, a birthday, a deadline. And sometimes, if they get too many on a busy day, yes, they ignore some of them.

This can happen in the healthcare industry too. In fact, it has its own name: alert fatigue.

Many EHR and practice management programs include alert systems that healthcare specialists can set up in order to get pop-up notifications on their screens when they view a patient’s profile. These messages can go from alerting them about a patient’s drug allergy to other less critical reminders like “drug should be taken with food.”

When alerts are so constant and so diverse in terms of relevance, it’s easier for doctors to stop paying attention to them.

A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association found that doctors ignore alerts between 49 to 96 percent of the cases, which can be a serious risk factor for patient safety.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has these suggestions to prevent alert fatigue among healthcare specialists:

  1. Eliminate inconsequential alerts: Make sure you are only setting up alerts that are actionable and clinically important, and eliminate those that are purely informational.
  2. Tier alerts by severity: Design a system to present each alert a different way. You can color code them and use color red for severe alerts, for example, yellow for moderate alerts, and so on. You can even start your severe alerts messages by writing “WARNING” at the beginning.
  3. Review your alert system periodically: Keep your alarm system in check by revisiting it and adjusting it regularly.
  4. Talk to your team about alert fatigue: Discuss alert fatigue issues with your staff and include them in the decision-making process. The best way to implement a system that works is involving the people who will be using it.

By following these simple steps you reduce the chances of alert fatigue and ensure the practice isn’t missing any critical alerts that might affect the patients’ health.