J Am Med Inform Assoc 7:196-203 doi:10.1136/jamia.2000.0070196
  • Original Investigation
  • Research Paper

A Comparison of the Effects of Computer and Manual Reminders on Compliance with a Mental Health Clinical Practice Guideline

  1. Dale S Cannon,
  2. Steven N Allen
  1. Affiliation of the authors: University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
  1. Correspondence and reprints: Dale Cannon, PhD, Psychiatry Service (116OP), VAMC, 500 Foothill Boulevard, Salt Lake City, UT 84148; e-mail: 〈dale.cannon{at}
  • Received 25 June 1999
  • Accepted 15 October 1999


Objective To evaluate the relative effectiveness of computer and manual reminder systems on the implementation of a clinical practice guideline.

Design Seventy-eight outpatients in a mental health clinic were randomly assigned within clinician to one of the two reminder systems. The computer system, called CaseWalker, reminded clinicians when guideline-recommended screening for mood disorder was due, ensured the fidelity of the diagnosis of major depressive disorder to criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV), and generated a progress note. The manual system was a checklist inserted in the paper medical record.

Measures Screening rates for mood disorder and the completeness of the documentation of which DSM-IV criteria were met by patients who were said to have major depressive disorder were compared.

Results The CaseWalker, compared with the paper checklist, resulted in a higher screening rate for mood disorder (86.5 vs. 61 percent, P = 0.008) and a higher rate of complete documentation of DSM-IV criteria (100 vs. 5.6 percent, P < 0.001).

Conclusions In an outpatient mental health clinic, computer reminders were shown to be superior to manual reminders in improving adherence to a clinical practice guideline for depression.


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