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EHR alerts reduce UTIs

August 27, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Caregivers who receive simplified electronic health record (EHR) alerts noting when to remove a catheter can drastically reduce the number of urinary tract infections, according to a study published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania analyzed data collected from 222,475 patients at three hospitals between 2009 and 2012. 

Whenever a catherization was needed, physicians were asked to enter data into the patient's EHR describing when and why the procedure was performed. The system then automatically sent out an alert at the time the catheter was supposed to be removed or if re-evaluation was needed.

Interestingly, when a more simplified alert was used to notify the physicians, the number of catheter removals increased and the number of UTIs decreased from .84 per 1,000 patient days to .50 per 1,000 patient days.

Charles A. Baillie, MD, an internal medicine specialist and fellow in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Penn Medicine and the lead author of the study, said in a press release: "Our study has two crucial, applicable findings. First, electronic alerts do result in fewer catheter-associated urinary tract infections. Second, the design of the alerts is very important. By making the alert quicker and easier to use, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of catheters removed in patients who no longer needed them. Fewer catheters means fewer infections, fewer days in the hospital, and even, fewer deaths."