Impact of clinical decision support on radiography for acute ankle injuries: a randomized trial
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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Impact of clinical decision support on radiography for acute ankle injuries: a randomized trial



While only 15-20% of patients with foot and ankle injuries presenting to urgent care centers have clinically significant fractures, most undergo radiography. We examined the impact of electronic point-of-care clinical decision support (CDS) on adherence to the Ottawa Ankle Rules (OAR) as well as use and yield of foot and ankle radiographs in patients with acute ankle injury.


Institutional Review Board approval was obtained for this randomized controlled study performed April 18, 2012 through December 15, 2013.  All ordering providers credentialed at an urgent care affiliated with a quaternary care academic hospital were randomized to either receive or not receive CDS, based on the OAR and integrated into the physician order entry system, with feedback at the time of imaging order. If the patient met OAR low-risk criteria, providers were advised against imaging and could either cancel the order or ignore the alert. Patients with foot and ankle complaints were identified via ICD-9 billing codes and electronic health records and radiology reports reviewed for those who were eligible. Chi-square was used to compare adherence to the OAR (primary outcome), radiography utilization rate and radiography yield of foot and ankle imaging (secondary outcomes) between the intervention and control groups.


Of 14,642 patients seen at urgent care during the study period, 613 (4.2%, representing 632 visits) presented with acute ankle injury and were eligible for application of the OAR; 374 (59.2%) of these were seen by control group providers. In the intervention group, CDS adherence was higher for both ankle (239/258=92.6% vs. 231/374=61.8%, p=0.02) and foot radiography (209/258=81.0% vs. 238/374=63.6%; p<0.01). However, ankle radiography use was higher in the intervention group (166/258=64.3% vs. 183/374=48.9%; p<0.01) while foot radiography use (141/258=54.6% vs. 202/374=54.0%; p=0.95) was not. Radiography yield was also higher in the intervention group (26/307=8.5% vs. 18/385=4.7%; p=0.04).


Clinical Decision Support, previously demonstrated to improve guideline adherence for high-cost imaging, can also improve guideline adherence for radiography – as demonstrated by increased OAR adherence and increase imaging yield.

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