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Grant To Fund Study Of Doctor Fatigue Over Auto-Generated Drug Alerts

A professor at the University of Arizona has received a $1.5 million grant to study a problem known as "alert fatigue." The phenomenon springs from the overabundance of information doctors receive from computer systems when they’re prescribing medications.

Dr. Daniel Malone says physicians are often bombarded with automatically generated warnings about drug interactions — interactions that are often irrelevant to their patient.

“Over 90 percent of warnings about drug interactions are overridden by physicians,” he said, explaining that most of the time, doctors are making the right call.

Every once in a while, however, a critical alert gets lost in the shuffle, and a patient can get seriously hurt or even die, Malone said.

“We want to find ways to tell physicians when they need to stop and really think about this medication really causing harm to the patient,” he said. 

The grant will cover five years of research.

Stina Sieg was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2013 to 2018.