Electronic prescribing systems as tools to improve patient care: a learning health systems approach to increase guideline concordant prescribing for venous thromboembolism prevention

S Gallier, A Topham, P Nightingale, M Garrick, I Woolhouse, M A Berry, T Pankhurst, E Sapey, S Ball

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BACKGROUND: Venous thromboembolism (VTE) causes significant mortality and morbidity in hospitalised patients. Risk factors for VTE are well known and there are validated risk assessment tools to support the use of prophylactic therapies. In England, reporting the percentage of patients with a completed VTE risk assessment is mandated, but this does not include whether that risk assessment resulted in appropriate prescribing. Full guideline compliance, defined as an assessment which led to an appropriate action-here prescribing prophylactic low molecular weight heparin where indicated, is rarely reported. Education, audit and feedback enhance guideline compliance but electronic prescribing systems (EPS) can mandate guideline-compliant actions. We hypothesised that a systems-based EPS intervention (prescribing rules which mandate approval or rejection of a proposed prescription of prophylactic low molecular weight heparin based on the mandated VTE assessment) would increase full VTE guideline compliance more than interventions which focused on targeting individual prescribers.

METHODS: All admitted patients within University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust were included for analysis between 2011 and 2020. The proportion of patients who received a fully compliant risk assessment and action was assessed over time. Interventions included teaching sessions and face-to-face feedback based on measured performance (an approach targeting individual prescribers) and mandatory risk assessment and prescribing rules into an EPS (a systems approach).

RESULTS: Data from all 235,005 admissions and all 5503 prescribers were included in the analysis. Risk assessments were completed in > 90-95% of all patients at all times, but full guideline compliance was lower (70% at the start of this study). Face-to-face feedback improved full VTE guideline compliance from 70 to 77% (p ≤ 0.001). Changes to the EPS to mandate assessment with prescribing rules increased full VTE compliance to 95% (p ≤ 0.001). Further amendments to the EPS system to reduce erroneous VTE assessments slightly reduced full compliance to 92% (p < 0.001), but this was then maintained including during changes to the low molecular weight heparin used for VTE prophylaxis.

DISCUSSION: An EPS-systems approach was more effective in improving sustained guideline-compliant VTE prevention over time. Non-compliance remained at 8-5% despite this mandated system. Further research is needed to assess the potential reasons for this.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by PIONEER, the Health Data Research Hub in acute care and the HDR-UK Better Care programme and funded by Health Data Research UK.

Funding Information:
P Nightingale, T Pankhurst, I Woolhouse, MA Berry, M Garrick report no conflicts of interest. S Gallier, A Topham and S Ball reports funding support from the HDRUK. E Sapey reports funding support from HDRUK, MRC, Wellcome Trust, NIHR, Alpha 1 Foundation, EPSRC and British Lung Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Anticoagulants/therapeutic use
  • Electronic Prescribing
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Learning Health System
  • Venous Thromboembolism/drug therapy


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