OBJECTIVES: To examine the effect of replacing drug-specific computerized prescribing alerts with age-specific alerts on rates of dispensing potentially inappropriate medications in older people and to determine whether group academic detailing enhances the effectiveness of these alerts.
DESIGN: Cluster-randomized trial of group academic detailing and interrupted time-series analysis.
SETTING: Fifteen clinics of a staff-model health maintenance organization.
PARTICIPANTS: Seven practices (113 clinicians, 24,119 patients) were randomly assigned to receive age-specific prescribing alerts plus the academic detailing intervention; eight practices (126 clinicians, 26,805 patients) received alerts alone. Prior implementation of drug-specific alerts established a downward trend in use of target medications that served as the baseline trend for the present study.
INTERVENTION: The computerized age-specific alerts occurred at the time of prescribing a targeted potentially inappropriate medication (e.g., tertiary tricyclic amine antidepressants, long-acting benzodiazepines, propoxyphene) and suggested an alternative medication. Clinicians at seven sites were randomized to group academic detailing, an interactive educational program delivering evidence-based information.
MEASUREMENTS: Number of target medications dispensed per 10,000 patients per quarter, 2 years before and 1.5 years after the replacement of drug-specific with age-specific alerts.
RESULTS: Age-specific alerts resulted in a continuation of the effects of the drug-specific alerts without measurable additional effect (P=.75 for level change), but the age-specific alerts led to fewer false-positive alerts for clinicians. Group academic detailing did not enhance the effect of the alerts.
CONCLUSION: Age-specific alerts sustained the effectiveness of drug-specific alerts to reduce potentially inappropriate prescribing in older people and resulted in a considerably decreased burden of the alerts.