Evidence-based medicine: Clinical inertia: A common barrier to changing provider prescribing behavior
A cross-sectional content analysis nested within a randomized, controlled trial was conducted to collect information on provider responses to computer alerts regarding guideline recommendations for patients with suboptimal hypertension care.
Participants were providers who cared for 1,017 patients with uncontrolled hypertension on a single antihypertensive agent within Veterans Affairs primary care clinics. All reasons for action or inaction were sorted into a framework to explain the variation in guideline adaptation.
The 184 negative provider responses to computer alerts contained explanations for not changing patient treatment; 76 responses to the alerts were positive, that is, the provider was going to make a change in antihypertensive regimen. The negative responses were categorized as: inertia of practice (66%), lack of agreement with specific guidelines (5%), patient-based factors (17%), environmental factors (10%), and lack of knowledge (2%). Most of the 135 providers classified as inertia of practice indicated, "Continue current medications and I will discuss at the next visit." The median number of days until the next visit was 45 days (interquartile range, 29 to 78 days).
Clinical inertia was the primary reason for failing to engage in otherwise indicated treatment change in a subgroup of patients. A framework was provided as a taxonomy for classification of provider barriers.
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