BACKGROUND - The 2007 American College of Cardiologists/American Heart Association Guidelines on Perioperative Cardiac Evaluation and Care for Noncardiac Surgery is the standard for perioperative cardiac evaluation. Recent work has shown that residents and anesthesiologists do not apply these guidelines when tested. This research hypothesized that a decision support tool would improve adherence to this consensus guideline.
METHODS - Anesthesiology residents at four training programs participated in an unblinded, prospective, randomized, cross-over trial in which they completed two tests covering clinical scenarios. One quiz was completed from memory and one with the aid of an electronic decision support tool. Performance was evaluated by overall score (% correct), number of incorrect answers with possibly increased cost or risk of care, and the amount of time required to complete the quizzes both with and without the cognitive aid. The primary outcome was the proportion of correct responses attributable to the use of the decision support tool.
RESULTS - All anesthesiology residents at four institutions were recruited and 111 residents participated. Use of the decision support tool resulted in a 25% improvement in adherence to guidelines compared with memory alone (P < 0.0001), and participants made 77% fewer incorrect responses that would have resulted in increased costs. Use of the tool was associated with a 3.4-min increase in time to complete the test (P < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS - Use of an electronic decision support tool significantly improved adherence to the guidelines as compared with memory alone. The decision support tool also prevented inappropriate management steps possibly associated with increased healthcare costs.