Clinical decision support (CDS) systems are a necessary component that assist healthcare organisations to reach enhanced digital maturity, by enabling clinicians to provide evidence-based care for improved patient outcomes and reduced treatment costs. 
The technology serves to fill clinicians’ knowledge gaps by giving them access to the latest medical information. When combined with electronic medical records (EMRs) to access patient specific information, this allows them to make better informed decisions around patient diagnosis and treatment. 
This is critical, as it currently takes 17 years for just 14 per cent of research to become part of routine medical practice. However, medical knowledge is projected to double every 73 days. 
The resulting knowledge gaps can lead to medical errors and – in worst-case scenarios – patient deaths, with reports showing that preventable medical errors are responsible for 11 per cent of all Australian deaths
CDS tools also allow for collaboration within care teams, ensuring patients receive consistent care throughout their health journeys and preventing complications, patient readmission and associated costs. 
Furthermore, by building CDS into their workflows, physicians and care teams can access important and timely information without having to switch applications.
The advanced abilities of CDS tools make them a crucial element in attaining clinical digital maturity.
Achieving digital maturity with CDS
While EMRs have been hailed as a hallmark of digital maturity, allowing physicians to more readily collect and access patient information, Elsevier Clinical Informatics Manager Lis Herbert – who recently presented at the HiNZ 2018 conference during an Elsevier breakfast – said they’re only one part of a digital maturity journey. 
Healthcare organisations reach digital maturity when they combine EMRs with other digital technologies to improve patient outcomes, reduce service costs and empower collaboration between care teams. 
Some EMR adoption models, such as the European EMR Adoption and NHS Maturity models – which guide and measure organisations’ digital maturity – have made CDS a mandatory requirement for digital maturity in healthcare IT.
Furthermore, the HIMSS Analytics EMRAM requires healthcare organisations to have fully adopted CDS, among other technologies, in order to reach the sixth stage of digital maturation. 
Currently, Australia has two digitally mature (EMRAM stage seven) hospitals – the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne (outpatients), Victoria and St Stephen’s in Hervey Bay, Queensland, with several others currently at stage 6 and working to achieve stage 7. 
Planning for digital maturity 
According to Herbert, there are a number of strategies organisations can use to reach EMRAM stage 7 digital maturity: 
These include: 
  • Developing an effective change management strategy and dedicating frontline clinicians to lead the change,
  • Identifying executive sponsorship,
  • Conducting workflow analysis and redesign,
  • Planning communication and marketing,
  • Defining a plan to monitor adoption, measure benefits and identify opportunities, and
  • Integrating with the IT roadmap.
However, Herbert said to be successful and gain optimal value, organisations will need a reliable method for managing the cultural, behavioural and organisational changes required for implementation and optimisation.
Clinicians need to consider evidence-based practice and the opportunities provided by CDS to augment personal experience, in order to provide well-informed, personalised, high-quality and economically sound care. 
Find out where you are on your Clinical Decision Support adoption journey.  



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