How often do doctors ignore drug interaction warnings generated by electronic prescribing systems?

It’s surprisingly frequent.

WhiteCoat notes a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine looking at how often doctors overrode drug interaction warnings that pop up when prescribing.

I can say, at least with the EMR that I use, that it’s quite frequent, with warnings occurring when refilling medications that patients have been taking safely for years.

I’m not alone with this experience, as the study showed that “‘drug-drug interaction’ alerts were overridden 91% of the time and ‘allergy’ alerts were overridden 77% of the time.”

The problem is that many of these alerts, as WhiteCoat says, were “theoretical ones and not clinical ones.” If you have too many needless alerts, doctors will start ignoring the real ones.

He draws an analogy to Windows Vista’s annoying User Account Control feature, where after a while, you just turn it off because its incessant, unnecessary alerts interfere with the usability of the system.