MedStar Researchers to Evaluate Clinical Decision Support Resources through Federal Contract

Zach Hettinger, MD, MS
Kristen Miller, DrPH, CPPS

Hyattsville, MD (August 21, 2018)—Researchers from MedStar Health will investigate the implementation and efficacy of shareable clinical decision support resources as part of healthcare team communications through a one-year contract award from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Jointly led by Kristen Miller, DrPH, CPPS, and Zach Hettinger, MD, MS, from the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare at MedStar Health, the collaborative team will seek to understand the role and usage of clinical decision support resources that are available from the AHRQ Clinical Decision Support Connect platform. The platform is a repository that shares structured data and resources, providing tools for promoting a collaborative model of clinical decision support. 

With the implementation of electronic health records, the way that healthcare teams communicate is changing. Clinical decision support resources seek to ensure that the entire healthcare team, from doctors to nurses to pharmacists, is receiving the correct information at the appropriate time to help inform their clinical decisions to enhance patient outcomes. By leveraging a shared clinical support system, healthcare systems can increase efficiency in communication across care teams, leading to more positive patient outcomes.

“Providing clinicians with decision support, through the electronic health record, at the point of care, is critically important – but the process is complex. A key barrier is the need for most organizations to independently develop, deploy, and manage clinical decision support content. Shareable resources have the potential to standardize and optimize care, reduce costs, and moderate redundant work across healthcare systems.” says Dr. Miller.

The research team will leverage human factors engineering methodologies, including stakeholder interviews, an ethnographic approach for task analysis, along with process mapping, usability testing, and business case development as part of the contract. The resulting analysis will be used as the strategic evidence necessary to build a business case that considers key aspects of an organization’s clinical and business strategies.

Dr. Miller is a clinically-oriented, human factors researcher, and focuses on medical decision making and behavior, informatics, and the assessment of medical interventions and practices. Dr. Hettinger is the medical director and director of cognitive informatics at the National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare at MedStar Health and a practicing emergency medicine physician at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital. Other key team members include Jessica Howe, MA, senior human factors specialist and system safety specialist, Joseph Blumenthal, clinical informatics researcher and developer, and Derek DeLia, PhD, director of health economics and health systems research at the MedStar Health Research Institute.

Collaborating on this research will be Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), as a primary analysis location, and two secondary healthcare systems, Medical University of South Carolina and Hahnemann University Hospital. “By implementing the resources at multiple sites, we will have the ability to make systematic comparisons and produce a rigorous evaluation that demonstrates within-site and between-site analyses to test the efficiencies of shareable clinical decision support resources in multiple healthcare settings,” says Dr. Miller.

This federal contract was awarded through AHRQ’s ACTION III (Accelerating Change and Transformation in Organizations and Networks) funding mechanism. This is one of four contracts that have been awarded to MedStar Health as part of this federal contract vehicle, including one that was awarded earlier this year.


About MedStar Health Research Institute

The MedStar Health Research Institute is the research arm of MedStar Health, the largest healthcare provider in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region. MHRI provides scientific, administrative and regulatory support for research programs throughout the MedStar Health system. MHRI’s expertise includes translational research into disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. These programs complement the key clinical services and teaching programs in the 10 MedStar hospitals and other MedStar entities. For more information, visit www.MedStarResearch.org

About MedStar Health
MedStar Health is a not-for-profit health system dedicated to caring for people in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region while advancing the practice of medicine through education, innovation, and research. MedStar’s 30,000 associates, 6,000 affiliated physicians, 10 hospitals, ambulatory care and urgent care centers, and the MedStar Health Research Institute are recognized regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar trains more than 1,100 medical residents annually. MedStar Health’s patient-first philosophy combines care, compassion and clinical excellence with an emphasis on customer service. For more information, visit MedStarHealth.org.

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