Utilizing health information technology to improve the recognition and management of life-threatening adrenal crisis in the pediatric emergency department: medical alert identification in the 21st century.
Background Many barriers exist to the appropriate recognition and management of life-threatening adrenal crisis in the emergency department (ED). Clinical decision support (CDS) is a health information technology (IT) component that provides useful information to providers as healthcare is being delivered. We hypothesized that CDS incorporated into the electronic health record (EHR) could improve the recognition and management of adrenal crisis within the pediatric ED. Methods We retrospectively analyzed the impact of electronic CDS on the management of patients with known adrenal insufficiency (AI) presenting to two pediatric ED locations over a 19-month period with symptoms suggestive of adrenal crisis. Outcome variables assessed included the frequency of hydrocortisone (HC) administration, appropriateness of HC dosing, and timing to HC order placement and administration. Results A total of 145 encounters were reviewed. When the electronic CDS was in place at the time of the ED visit, patients were nearly 3 times as likely to receive HC (p = 0.002). Among those patients who received HC, the presence of the CDS increased the likelihood of an appropriate 50-mg/m2 dose of HC being given from 20 to 53% (p = 0.02). However, the CDS did not significantly reduce the time from ED arrival to HC order placement (p = 0.36) or administration (p = 0.59). Conclusions The use of innovative health IT strategies, such as the electronic CDS, can improve the recognition and management of adrenal crisis among patients with AI presenting to the pediatric ED.