The importance of laboratory monitoring for drugs is reflected in product labeling and published guidelines, but monitoring recommendations are followed inconsistently. Opportunity exists to improve monitoring, with the potential to decrease therapy complications.
The objective of this randomized trial was to determine whether computerized alerts were effective at increasing the percentage of ambulatory patients with laboratory monitoring at initiation of drug therapy. Physicians and pharmacists teamed up to develop organization-specific guidelines for monitoring selected drugs. In collaboration with physicians, pharmacists were alerted to missing laboratory test results, ordered missing tests, reminded patients to obtain tests, assessed test completion, reviewed test results, and managed abnormal results. Eligible individuals included patients with therapy initiated for any of 15 drugs among 400 000 health plan members.
In the intervention group, 79.1% (n = 4076; 95% confidence interval [CI], 78.0%-80.2%) of dispensings were monitored compared with 70.2% (n = 3522; 95% CI, 68.9%-71.5%) in the usual-care group (P<.001). For example, 78.6% of amiodarone (95% CI, 73.1%-83.5%) dispensing was monitored in the intervention group vs 51.4% (95% CI, 44.4%-58.4%) in the group receiving usual care (P<.001).
This study demonstrates the effectiveness of a computerized tool plus collaboration among health care professionals at increasing the percentage of patients receiving laboratory monitoring at initiation of therapy. Coupling data available from information systems with the knowledge and skills of physicians and pharmacists can result in improved patient monitoring.