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Sustainability of a Clinical Decision Support Intervention for Outpatient Care for Emergency Department Patients With Acute Pulmonary Embolism



Physicians commonly hospitalize patients presenting to the emergency department (ED) with acute pulmonary embolism (PE), despite eligibility for safe outpatient management. Risk stratification using electronic health record-embedded clinical decision support systems can aid physician site-of-care decision-making and increase safe outpatient management. The long-term sustainability of early improvements after the cessation of trial-based, champion-led promotion is uncertain.


To evaluate the sustainability of recommended site-of-care decision-making support 4 years after initial physician champion-led interventions to increase outpatient management for patients with acute PE.

Design, setting, and participants

This retrospective cohort study was conducted in 21 US community hospitals in an integrated health system. Participants included adult patients presenting to the ED with acute PE. Study sites had participated in an original decision-support intervention trial 4 years prior to the current study period: 10 sites were intervention sites, 11 sites were controls. In that trial, decision support with champion promotion resulted in significantly higher outpatient management at intervention sites compared with controls. After trial completion, all study sites were given continued access to a modified decision-support tool without further champion-led outreach. Data were analyzed from January 2019 to February 2020.


ED treatment with a modified clinical decision support tool.

Main outcomes and measures

The main outcome was frequency of outpatient management, defined as discharge home directly from the ED, stratified by the PE Severity Index. The safety measure of outpatient care was 7-day PE-related hospitalization.


This study included 1039 patients, including 533 (51.3%) women, with a median (IQR) age of 65 (52-74) years. Nearly half (474 patients [45.6%]) were rated lower risk on the PE Severity Index. Overall, 278 patients (26.8%) were treated as outpatients, with only four 7-day PE-related hospitalizations (1.4%; 95% CI, 0.4%-3.6%). The practice gap in outpatient management created by the earlier trial persisted in the outpatient management for patients with lower risk: 109 of 236 patients (46.2%) at former intervention sites vs 81 of 238 patients (34.0%) at former control sites (difference, 12.2; [95% CI, 3.4-20.9] percentage points; P = .007), with wide interfacility variation (range, 7.1%-47.1%).

Conclusions and relevance

In this cohort study, a champion-led, decision-support intervention to increase outpatient management for patients presenting to the ED with acute pulmonary embolism was associated with sustained higher rates of outpatient management 4 years later. The application of our findings to improving sustainability of practice change for other clinical conditions warrants further study.

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