Clinical Decision Support: Air Traffic Control for Healthcare

Photo by Saab Australia under the Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license

Can you imagine what air travel would be like without the coordination of air traffic control? If waiting on the runway for twenty minutes sounds bad, imagine waiting for hours for each pilot to consult with every other pilot both on the ground and in the air. The most efficient and arguably safest mode of transportation would slow to a crawl and be fraught with danger as pilots struggle to piece together all of the information needed to make smart decisions.

Unfortunately for those of us in healthcare, this is the reality we face every day because there is no standard like air traffic control for coordinating patient care.

Keeping track of patient information for chronic patients is especially a challenge for primary care doctors’ offices who need to gather information about their patients from multiple specialists, hospitals, and lab results through phone calls, emails, and faxes so that they can make smart decisions with their patients. Even worse, many practices lack a practical means to sort through all of this information, identify relevant updates for high-risk patients and leverage this data into management at the point of care.

Much like air traffic control has made air travel more safe and efficient, clinical decision support (CDS) has the potential to improve the delivery of patient care by pulling together actionable, patient-centric information directly at the point-of-care through the Electronic Health Record. This software can link seamlessly with various health IT systems and can be designed to integrate with clinicians’ clinical workflow, from delivering reports on high-risk patients to linking providers to relevant clinical guidelines and standard of care.

While many practice managers are eager to achieve CDS integration, physician adoption has been slower. As a practice manager, overcoming this hesitation requires a three-point solution:

Three Steps Practice Managers Can Take to Promote CDS Adoption

  1. The CDS software you choose should tie directly into the clinical workflow to encourage ease of use and wider adoption.
  2. CDS software should deliver clinical insights at the point of care with minimal alerts, pop-ups, or workflow obstacles, as the slightest time delays can create barriers to implementation.
  3. Information delivered by the CDS should be actionable—allowing clinicians to take action and change their management based on patient-specific data and the standard of care.

Financial stakeholders will recognize that CDS integration can provide significant economic benefits. A range of studies have reported on effective CDS integration and improved workflow efficiency, improved patient safety, and greater quality of care1. As value based care models like ACO’s and patient-centered medical homes continue to evolve, these improved outcomes are translating to happier patients, less wasted dollars, and shared savings for providers.

As the adoption of EHR continues and new software is developed to modernize patient records, primary care practices should explore how CDS can make their EHR work for them.

1 Garag, A, MD Adhikari N, MD The Effects of Computerized Clinical Decision Support Systems on Practitioner Performance and Patient Outcomes: A Systematic Review JAMA. 2005;293(10):1223-38. Pubmed

Want to learn how Grand Round Table's clinical decision support software can help your practice? Please fill out the form below or contact us at for a demo.

Daniel Wasser, MD

Daniel Wasser, MD, is a General Practitioner and Physician Ambassador for Grand Round Table. He is a firm believer that practices must proactively engage with EHR and clinical decision support to ensure that their unique needs are incorporated into the next generation of EHR technology.