How Clinical Decision Support Systems Benefit Nurses

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A nurse practitioner is showing a patient how to synchronize his wearable health app to his smartphone.

Clinical decision support systems play a vital role in helping nurses deliver streamlined and optimal care to their patients.

As new information technologies and data platforms emerge, health care professionals need tools that not only help them make sense of that data, but leverage it to drive efficiency.

That’s where clinical decision support systems come in. These are technological systems health care professionals can use to manage large quantities of data and generate insights to guide decision-making. The ultimate objective is to improve the quality of care and save lives. A piece of wearable technology connected to one of these systems can track a patient’s vital signs. It then generates data in real time to inform diagnoses and treatment plans.

It’s important for practicing and aspiring nurse leaders and practitioners to understand the uses, benefits, and challenges of clinical decision support systems. It will prepare them for career success in a  technology-driven health care industry.

The Use of Clinical Decision Support Systems

Clinical decision support systems are commonly made of components — individual tools and technologies — connected for the purpose of gathering, sharing, and analyzing data. A health care facility can integrate these systems together into its value-based care strategies. Doing so can streamline processes for employees and create a positive impact on patients.

More specifically, clinical decision support systems might include the following components:

Electronic Health Records

Electronic health records (EHRs) are digital charts used to record and track a patient’s health information over time. As opposed to paper records, EHRs are easier to share between authorized health care providers. They can be accessed across digital devices and updated in real time.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools complement human decision making by using algorithms to automatically mine data for insights, propose treatment plans, and even develop drugs. For example, Google created an AI technology that can identify signs of breast cancer in patients. The biotech company Deep Genomics is using AI to quickly build new therapeutic solutions, saving precious time and money for patients in need.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technologies can track a range of health signals including heart rate, stress levels, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. This means nurses and doctors no longer have to wait for patients to visit the office to gather their health information. Patients can choose to send or sync data collected throughout the day from their wearable devices, providing a more comprehensive view of their health conditions and needs.

The Benefits of Clinical Decision Support Systems

Clinical decision support systems offer many benefits to nurses and health care facilities, including:

  • The ability to provide proactive care: Nurses can use real-time data collected from patients to spot health issues before they arise, personalize treatment plans to each individual’s needs, and monitor each patient’s progress.
  • Reduced patient visits and lowered costs: As health care facilities struggle with a shortage of nurses and resources, these systems can reduce some of the burden by remotely collecting information from patients.
  • Improved efficiency: Computerized processes and workflows can help nurses avoid and be alerted to errors, minimizing the risks of accidents or mistakes. 

Patients themselves also benefit from clinical decision support systems. The information produced and made available by these systems enables individuals to understand their own health histories and needs better. Armed with this information, patients can make smarter health-related choices leading to better health and a sense of well-being.

Challenges of Using Clinical Decision Support Systems

Despite their many advantages, clinical decision support systems also introduce a range of unique challenges for nurses and health care professionals, such as:

  • Diagnostic errors: Data gaps or technological bugs can sometimes lead to errors in treatment plans and decision making.
  • Alert fatigue: Too many technological alerts can end up being distracting rather than helpful. That’s why it’s important to be sure health care tool settings are updated frequently, only enabling necessary alerts and notifications.
  • Data privacy: As with any connected device, clinical decision support systems may be hacked and manipulated if they’re not properly secured. This leaves nurses and patients vulnerable to data leaks and privacy intrusions.

In the face of these potential obstacles, nurses can use their leadership, analytical, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills to prepare for any tech-related challenges. This will help them elicit the most value from clinical decision support systems in their practice.

Deliver the Future of Health Care Today

The future of health care is being driven by technological innovation. Health care professionals who understand the effects of these emerging tools and technologies will be in the best position to deliver quality care.

Bradley University’s online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is designed for nurse leaders at the highest level. We understand today’s nurses have an opportunity to revolutionize the health care delivery system as a whole. It starts with gaining the proper education and training.

In our DNP program, nurses will expand their clinical expertise and leadership by collaborating with fellow nurse leaders on rigorous courses and real-world practice — so they’re prepared to make a positive impact on the future of health care.

Learn more about how to advance your career with Bradley University’s online DNP degree program.

Recommended Readings

Nurse Practitioner Specialties: Types of Nurse Practitioner Roles and Responsibilities

Principles of Nursing Leadership: Jobs and Trends

When Will a DNP Be Required for Nurse Practitioners?


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Clinical Decision Support

Health IT Analytics, “What Are the Top Challenges of Clinical Decision Support Tools?”, Benefits of EHRs, Clinical Decision Support, What Is an Electronic Health Record (EHR)?

Healthcare Transformers, “The Role of Predictive Analytics and Clinical Decision Support in Value-Based Care”, “The Impact of Digital Technology on Healthcare”

NPJ Digital Medicine, “An Overview of Clinical Decision Support Systems: Benefits, Risks, and Strategies for Success”

The Medical Futurist, “10 Ways Technology Is Changing Healthcare”