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AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2003:599-603.

A framework for classifying decision support systems.

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  • 1University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.



Computer-based clinical decision support systems (CDSSs) vary greatly in design and function. A taxonomy for classifying CDSS structure and function would help efforts to describe and understand the variety of CDSSs in the literature, and to explore predictors of CDSS effectiveness and generalizability.


To define and test a taxonomy for characterizing the contextual, technical, and workflow features of CDSSs.


We retrieved and analyzed 150 English language articles published between 1975 and 2002 that described computer systems designed to assist physicians and/or patients with clinical decision making. We identified aspects of CDSS structure or function and iterated our taxonomy until additional article reviews did not result in any new descriptors or taxonomic modifications.


Our taxonomy comprises 95 descriptors along 24 descriptive axes. These axes are in 5 categories: Context, Knowledge and Data Source, Decision Support, Information Delivery, and Workflow. The axes had an average of 3.96 coded choices each. 75% of the descriptors had an inter-rater agreement kappa of greater than 0.6.


We have defined and tested a comprehensive, multi-faceted taxonomy of CDSSs that shows promising reliability for classifying CDSSs reported in the literature.

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