OBJECTIVES: To develop a feasible, inexpensive, point-of-care computerized reminder to improve sedative-hypnotic prescribing in hospitalized older people.
DESIGN: Pre-postintervention with a computer-based reminder.
SETTING: Academic medical center.
PARTICIPANTS: Hospitalized patients aged 65 and older.
INTERVENTION: Computer-based reminder directing clinicians to prescribe a nonpharmacological sleep protocol, to minimize the potential for harm with diphenhydramine and diazepam use by choosing an alternative medication (trazodone or lorazepam), or both.
MEASUREMENTS: Frequency of prescription of four sedative-hypnotic drugs (diphenhydramine, diazepam, lorazepam, and trazodone) during the 12 months before (n=12,356 patients) and after (n=12,153) the reminder was instituted.
RESULTS: Prescribing of sedative-hypnotics decreased from 2,208 per 12,356 (18%) patients preintervention to 1,832 per 12,153 (15%) postintervention (odds ratio for the intervention=0.82, 95% confidence interval=0.76–0.87), an 18% risk reduction. Combined prescription rates for all four drugs fell consistently throughout the postintervention period. Diphenhydramine, diazepam, and lorazepam orders declined overall, with lorazepam prescriptions decreasing 39% during the intervention. Ninety-five percent of patients were successfully directed to a safer sedative-hypnotic drug or a nonpharmacological sleep protocol.
CONCLUSION: Using real-time computer-based reminders could lead to improved sedative-hypnotic prescribing for older persons in acute care. This study highlights the potential to address patient safety concerns, and the quality of medication prescribing in particular, in vulnerable hospitalized patients.