Computers are excellent at storing, synthesizing, and presenting data in an efficient and user-friendly format. CDSSs are electronic systems that aid clinical decision making by generating patient-specific assessments and recommendations through software algorithms that match individual patient data to a computerized knowledge database. Such systems can “push” information to clinicians through alerts or reminders at the point-of-care, or through system-wide approaches, such as evidence-based order sets.
CDSSs are superior to paper-based resources because they are more flexible and can rapidly retrieve vast amounts of data, perform time-consuming calculations, and navigate complex care algorithms. They can also present information “just-in-time,” without overloading providers with unnecessary data. Finally, CDSSs can improve care by giving clinicians performance feedback on quality indicators, enabling them to identify and bridge their own practice gap.
CDSSs have been shown to improve care when they are used directly by patients. Patients can enter data into a CDSS, which processes, transfers, and presents the data directly to their physicians. Such systems can facilitate clinician decision making, and influence clinician decisions through patient prompting. Alternatively, CDSSs may empower patients to self-manage chronic diseases, or to guide complex medical decision making.