The impact of computerised physician order entry and clinical decision support on pharmacist-physician communication in the hospital setting: A qualitative study

Sabi Redwood, Sarah Pontefract, Jamie Coleman, Hannah Vallance, Christine Hirsch, Sonal Shah, John Marriott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
348 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The implementation of Computerised Physician Order Entry (CPOE) and Clinical Decision Support (CDS) has been found to have some unintended consequences. The aim of this study is to explore pharmacists and physicians perceptions of their interprofessional communication in the context of the technology and whether electronic messaging and CDS has an impact on this.
Method: This qualitative study was conducted in two acute hospitals: the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHBFT) and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTH). UHBFT use an established locally developed CPOE system that can facilitate pharmacist-physician communication with the ability to assign a message directly to an electronic prescription. In contrast, GSTH use a more recently implemented commercial system where such communication is not possible. Focus groups were conducted with pharmacists and physicians of varying grades at both hospitals. Focus group data were transcribed and analysed thematically using deductive and inductive approaches, facilitated by NVivo 10.
Results: Three prominent themes emerged during the study: increased communication load; impaired decision-making; and improved workflow. CPOE and CDS were found to increase the communication load for the pharmacist owing to a reduced ability to amend electronic prescriptions, new types of prescribing errors, and the provision of technical advice relating to the use of the system. Decision-making was found to be affected, owing to the difficulties faced by pharmacists and physicians when trying to determine the context of prescribing decisions and knowledge of the patient. The capability to communicate electronically facilitated a non-interruptive workflow, which was found to be beneficial for staff time, coordination of work and for limiting distractions.
Conclusion: The increased communication load for the pharmacist, and consequent workload for the physician, has the potential to impact on the quality and coordination of care in the hospital setting. The ability to communicate electronically has some benefits, but functions need to be designed to facilitate collaborative working, and for this to be optimised through interprofessional training.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0207450
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2018


  • Computerised Physician Order Entry
  • Decision support
  • Communication
  • Pharmacist
  • Physician
  • Collaborative working
  • Health services research
  • Qualitative research


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