Clinical Decision Support in Behavioral Health and Human Services

Woman using a computer

Clinical decision support (CDS) is a technology-enabled process that helps healthcare providers make more informed decisions at the point of care. It uses various forms of technology, such as automated alerts, reminders, and analytical tools, that give healthcare providers real-time, evidence-based information that can assist in their decision-making. 

One of the main goals of CDS is to improve patient safety and quality of care. For example, clinical decision support systems can help providers identify and avoid medication errors by providing alerts and reminders about potential drug interactions or allergies. They can provide decision support for prescribing, dosing, and monitoring medications. CDS systems can also help providers identify patients at risk for certain conditions or diseases and provide guidance on appropriate screening or testing.

Moreover, CDS systems can also assist in managing chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. By providing real-time patient data, clinical decision support software can help providers monitor and adjust treatment plans as needed and guide lifestyle changes — such as diet and exercise — that can help improve patient outcomes.

Let’s take a closer look at the various benefits of CDS, review evidence that suggests it improves outcomes, discover which features to look for when choosing a new system, and learn how CDS applies to behavioral health and human services. 

6 Benefits Associated With Clinical Decision Support

Clinical decision support: patient happily talking to a doctor

Providing evidence-based information and guidance to healthcare professionals can improve the quality of patient care through clinical decision support. Listed below are a few specific benefits that contribute to this goal.

  1. Diagnostic accuracy: CDS can assist healthcare professionals in making accurate diagnoses by providing relevant information and suggesting differential diagnoses.
  2. Enhanced patient safety: Decision support can help healthcare professionals identify potential drug interactions, contraindications, and other safety risks.
  3. Better patient outcomes: CDS can help healthcare professionals make more informed decisions about everything from dosing to treatment planning, leading to better patient outcomes.
  4. Lower healthcare costs: By improving diagnostic accuracy and patient outcomes, CDS systems can help reduce healthcare costs.
  5. Greater efficiency: A CDS system can help healthcare professionals save time by providing relevant information quickly and easily, allowing them to focus on other tasks.
  6. High quality of care: Decision support tools can help healthcare professionals deliver the most appropriate and up-to-date care to their patients, leading to improved patient outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.

An Evidence-Based Method to Improve Patient Outcomes 

Several studies have focused on clinical decision support (CDS) and its potential to improve patient outcomes. Studies have shown that using CDS can help providers make more accurate diagnoses, improve prescribing decisions, and reduce the risk of medical errors. Additionally, some CDS systems have been found to improve clinical outcome measures, such as reducing hospital readmissions and improving medication adherence. 

According to a study published in BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, clinical decision-support tools improve clinical outcomes and clinician performance in a broad range of conditions. The study found that CDS alerts improved usability, compliance with clinical guidelines, patient and clinician cooperation, integration with electronic health records (EHRs), and real-time prescription alerts.

Recent research into mental health applications of CDS found that clinicians who use clinical decision-making tools like mobile data collection can improve efficiency by streamlining workflows and expediting care. But more importantly, CDS tools were more effective at capturing patient-generated health data about emotions and social well-being than other methods.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has long recognized clinical decision support's potential to improve healthcare delivery and patient outcomes for behavioral health and human services (BHHS). In 2012, the ONC recommended CDS for behavioral health screening and treatment

The ONC found that integrated care requires standard behavioral health screening and assessment tools, treatment delivery, and evaluation of progress across patient care settings. ONC determined that CDS is specifically needed to identify a behavioral health risk or condition and to track patients’ progress and outcomes in primary care, preventive care, public health, and behavioral health settings.

Must-Have Clinical Decision Support Features

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Clinical decision support (CDS) systems use various tools to assist healthcare professionals in making informed decisions at the point of care. The following are some features to look for when implementing a CDS system and why they are important for improving outcomes.

  • Clinical guidelines and protocols provide evidence-based data that can be used to inform diagnosis and treatment decisions.
  • Alerts and reminders help healthcare professionals regarding potential drug interactions, contraindications, and other safety risks.
  • Order sets and templates assist healthcare professionals in selecting appropriate diagnostic tests and treatments.
  • Clinical calculators and scoring tools can assist clinicians in assessing patient risk and making treatment decisions.
  • Diagnostic and treatment plans can guide care and track patient progress.
  • Integrated knowledge base resources such as drug databases, clinical practice guidelines, and medical literature help inform decision-making.
  • Software that uses algorithms to analyze patient data, provide personalized recommendations, and extract information from unstructured data like inpatient records (including order entries, summaries, clinical notes, lab reports, pharmacist reports, and electronic medical record data) can enhance the decision-making process.

It’s best to integrate CDS systems into electronic health records (EHRs) and electronic medical record systems so providers have access to relevant patient data during care. 

5 Tips for Combating Alert Fatigue from CDS

One of the most significant barriers to using clinical decision support effectively is alert fatigue, wherein healthcare providers become desensitized due to getting too many alerts. Alert fatigue makes it harder for patient care providers to identify important information. There are several strategies you can use to avoid alert fatigue when using CDS:

  1. Customize the alert settings so that only relevant alerts appear to the user. You can do this by setting the threshold for certain alerts or by allowing users to select which notification they want to receive.
  2. Prioritize alerts based on their importance to display the most critical ones first. 
  3. Group similar alerts together so that they appear in a single message. It can make it easier for the user to process the information and take appropriate action.
  4. Require feedback mechanisms to allow users to provide input on the alerts they receive. This feedback can improve the alert system and make it more effective.
  5. Provide education and training for healthcare providers on how to use the CDS system effectively and handle alerts efficiently.

By implementing these strategies, providers can reduce the number of unnecessary alerts they receive and improve their ability to identify important information.

ContinuumCloud: An Integrated EHR System With CDS Tools

Clinical decision support: entrepreneur using headphones and a laptop

ContinuumCloud provides health information technology for behavioral health and human services organizations. Our comprehensive, configurable, and supported EHR solution aims to help organizations and health systems improve patient care and outcomes, increase efficiency, and reduce healthcare costs.

Our EHR system with CDS tools provides evidence-based information and guidance to behavioral healthcare professionals at the point of care. Here are just some of the features our solution provides.

Diagnosis and Treatment Planning

ContinuumCloud's health IT can assist behavioral health professionals in making accurate diagnoses and developing effective treatment plans by providing relevant information and suggesting differential diagnoses.

Medication Management

CDS technology from ContinuumCloud can help behavioral health professionals identify potential drug interactions, contraindications, and other safety risks and make informed decisions about medication management.

Monitoring Progress and Tracking Patient Risk Factors

Our CDS technology can help behavioral health professionals track patient progress and adjust treatment plans. The technology can also assist in identifying patients at high risk for certain conditions, such as suicide or addiction, and provide them with appropriate interventions.

Reporting and Analytics 

Our technology provides data analytics and reporting capabilities to monitor and track patient outcomes, treatment effectiveness, and other key performance indicators to make data-driven decisions. Mobile EHR allows for the same functionality while in the field.

It’s Time to Get the Clinical Decision Support You Need

CDS is a technology-enabled system that provides real-time, evidence-based information to healthcare providers so they can make better decisions at the point of care. Technology, such as automated alerts, reminders, and analytical tools, improves clinical workflows. To ensure your organization has access to relevant patient data during care, look for vendors integrating CDCs into electronic health records (EHRs).

One of the main goals of CDS is to improve patient safety and quality of care by helping providers identify and avoid medication errors, providing decision support for prescribing, dosing, and monitoring medications, identifying patients at risk for specific conditions or diseases, and providing guidance on appropriate screening or testing. 

Like those featured in ContinuumCloud’s EHR solution, integrated CDS tools improve care delivery and patient outcomes, such as reducing hospital readmissions and improving medication adherence. To get started, book a demo or connect with us today.

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