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Prim Care. 1995 Jun;22(2):365-84.

Computerized decision support systems in primary care.

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  • 1Division of Health Computer Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA.


Computerized decision support can be passive or active. Passive decision support occurs when a computer facilitates access to relevant patient data or clinical knowledge for interpretation by the physician. Examples include CPR systems and reference texts or literature databases on CD-ROM. Effective passive decision support may ultimately prove to have a significant impact on physician decision making, but its potential to do so has been largely unexplored. Active decision support implies some higher level of information processing, or inference, by the computer. Examples include reminder / alert systems and diagnostic decision support systems. Inference processing in active decision support systems is generally rule-based, but probabilistic inference has been successfully used as well. Reminder systems have been consistently demonstrated to improve dramatically physician guideline compliance, generally by reducing oversight or error. The same potential for large-scale, systematic impact on physician decision-making by diagnostic decision support systems probably does not exist, but these systems may prove to be extremely useful in individual cases. Current applicability of diagnostic decision support systems to primary care is limited by the incompleteness and inaccuracies of the knowledge bases of these systems with respect to primary care. The applicability of computerized decision support in general to primary care is limited by more practical considerations. Widespread computerized decision support will not occur without CPR systems coupled with appropriate data standards and nomenclatures that will permit decision support tools to be accessed effortlessly during the routine process of patient care.

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