Computerized decision support reduces medication errors in inpatients, but limited evidence supports its effectiveness in reducing the coprescribing of interacting medications, especially in the outpatient setting. The usefulness of academic detailing to enhance the effectiveness of medication interaction alerts also is uncertain.
This study used an interrupted time series design. In a health maintenance organization with an electronic medical record, we evaluated the effectiveness of electronic medical record alerts and group academic detailing to reduce the coprescribing of warfarin and interacting medications. Participants were 239 primary care providers at 15 primary care clinics and 9910 patients taking warfarin. All 15 clinics received electronic medical record alerts for the coprescription of warfarin and 5 interacting medications: acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, fluconazole, metronidazole, and sulfamethoxazole. Seven clinics were randomly assigned to receive group academic detailing. The primary outcome, the interacting prescription rate (ie, the number of coprescriptions of warfarin-interacting medications per 10 000 warfarin users per month), was analyzed with segmented regression models, controlling for preintervention trends.
At baseline, nearly a third of patients had an interacting prescription. Coinciding with the alerts, there was an immediate and continued reduction in the warfarin-interacting medication prescription rate (from 3294.0 to 2804.2), resulting in a 14.9% relative reduction (95% confidence interval, −19.5 to −10.2) at 12 months. Group academic detailing did not enhance alert effectiveness.
This study, using a strong and quasi-experimental design in ambulatory care, found that medication interaction alerts modestly reduced the frequency of coprescribing of interacting medications. Additional efforts will be required to further reduce rates of inappropriate prescribing of warfarin with interacting drugs.