clinical decision support system (CDSS)

A clinical decision support system (CDSS) is an application that analyzes data to help healthcare providers make clinical decisions. A CDSS is an adaptation of the decision support system commonly used to support business management.

Physicians, nurses and other health care professionals use a CDSS to prepare a diagnosis and to review the diagnosis as a means of improving the final result. Data mining may be conducted to examine the patient’s medical history in conjunction with relevant clinical research. Such analysis can help predict potential events, which can range from drug interactions to disease symptoms.

There are two main types of clinical decision support systems. One type of CDSS, which uses a knowledge base, applies rules to patient data using an inference engine and displays the results to the end user. Systems without a knowledge base, on the other hand, rely on machine learning to analyze clinical data.

There are several challenges impeding the adoption of clinical decision support systems. A CDSS must be integrated with a health care organization’s clinical workflow, which is often already complex. Most clinical decision support systems are standalone products that lack interoperability with reporting and electronic health record (EHR) software. The sheer number of clinical research and medical trials being published on an ongoing basis makes it difficult to incorporate the resulting data. Furthermore, incorporating large amounts of data into existing systems places significant strains on application and infrastructure maintenance.

Nevertheless, the use of clinical decision support systems is expected to increase in light of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which stipulates that health care providers must demonstrate the meaningful use of health IT by 2015 or face reduced Medicare reimbursements beginning in 2016. Under meaningful use, providers must implement one clinical decision support rule, including diagnostic test ordering, as well as the ability to track compliance with that rule. That rule, furthermore, should apply to a specialty or high-priority condition.

Learn more:

How clinical decision support can improve medication management.

Access to data can lead to better decision making in health care.

Using health care business intelligence in a clinical setting.

This was last updated in October 2010
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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