Background: Worldwide, the burden of allergies—in particular, drug allergies—is growing. In the process of prescribing, dispensing, or administering a drug, a medication error may occur and can have adverse consequences; for example, a drug may be given to a patient with a documented allergy to that particular drug. Computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems with built-in clinical decision support systems (CDSS) have the potential to prevent such medication errors and adverse events.

Objective: The aim of this review is to provide a comprehensive overview regarding all aspects of CDSS for drug allergy, including documenting, coding, rule bases, alerts and alert fatigue, and outcome evaluation.

Methods: The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed as much as possible and searches were conducted in 5 databases using CPOE, CDSS, alerts, and allergic or allergy as keywords. Bias could not be evaluated according to PRISMA guidelines due to the heterogeneity of study types included in the review.

Results: Of the 3160 articles considered, 60 met the inclusion criteria. A further 9 articles were added based on expert opinion, resulting in a total of 69 articles. An interrater agreement of 90.9% with a reliability Κ=.787 (95% CI 0.686-0.888) was reached. Large heterogeneity across study objectives, study designs, study populations, and reported results was found. Several key findings were identified. Evidence of the usefulness of clinical decision support for drug allergies has been documented. Nevertheless, there are some important problems associated with their use. Accurate and structured documenting of information on drug allergies in electronic health records (EHRs) is difficult, as it is often not clear to healthcare providers how and where to document drug allergies. Besides the underreporting of drug allergies, outdated or inaccurate drug allergy information in EHRs poses an important problem. Research on the use of coding terminologies for documenting drug allergies is sparse. There is no generally accepted standard terminology for structured documentation of allergy information. The final key finding is the consistently reported low specificity of drug allergy alerts. Current systems have high alert override rates of up to 90%, leading to alert fatigue. Important challenges remain for increasing the specificity of drug allergy alerts. We found only one study specifically reporting outcomes related to CDSS for drug allergies. It showed that adverse drug events resulting from overridden drug allergy alerts do not occur frequently.

Conclusions: Accurate and comprehensive recording of drug allergies is required for good use of CDSS for drug allergy screening. We found considerable variation in the way drug allergy are recorded in EHRs. It remains difficult to reduce drug allergy alert overload while maintaining patient safety as the highest priority. Future research should focus on improving alert specificity, thereby reducing override rates and alert fatigue. Also, the effect on patient outcomes and cost-effectiveness should be evaluated.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere258
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2018

    Research areas

  • Alert, Clinical decision support systems, Computerized physician order entry, Drug allergy, Patient safety

ID: 39401889