Precision diagnosis: a view of the clinical decision support systems (CDSS) landscape through the lens of critical care

Arnaud Belard*, Timothy Buchman, Jonathan Forsberg, Benjamin K. Potter, Christopher J. Dente, Allan Kirk, Eric Elster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Improving diagnosis and treatment depends on clinical monitoring and computing. Clinical decision support systems (CDSS) have been in existence for over 50 years. While the literature points to positive impacts on quality and patient safety, outcomes, and the avoidance of medical errors, technical and regulatory challenges continue to retard their rate of integration into clinical care processes and thus delay the refinement of diagnoses towards personalized care. We conducted a systematic review of pertinent articles in the MEDLINE, US Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Health Research and Quality, and US Food and Drug Administration databases, using a Boolean approach to combine terms germane to the discussion (clinical decision support, tools, systems, critical care, trauma, outcome, cost savings, NSQIP, APACHE, SOFA, ICU, and diagnostics). References were selected on the basis of both temporal and thematic relevance, and subsequently aggregated around four distinct themes: the uses of CDSS in the critical and surgical care settings, clinical insertion challenges, utilization leading to cost-savings, and regulatory concerns. Precision diagnosis is the accurate and timely explanation of each patient’s health problem and further requires communication of that explanation to patients and surrogate decision-makers. Both accuracy and timeliness are essential to critical care, yet computed decision support systems (CDSS) are scarce. The limitation arises from the technical complexity associated with integrating and filtering large data sets from diverse sources. Provider mistrust and resistance coupled with the absence of clear guidance from regulatory bodies further retard acceptance of CDSS. While challenges to develop and deploy CDSS are substantial, the clinical, quality, and economic impacts warrant the effort, especially in disciplines requiring complex decision-making, such as critical and surgical care. Improving diagnosis in health care requires accumulation, validation and transformation of data into actionable information. The aggregate of those processes—CDSS—is currently primitive. Despite technical and regulatory challenges, the apparent clinical and economic utilities of CDSS must lead to greater engagement. These tools play the key role in realizing the vision of a more ‘personalized medicine’, one characterized by individualized precision diagnosis rather than population-based risk-stratification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-271
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Monitoring and Computing
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • CDSS
  • Clinical decision support systems
  • Complex care
  • Critical care
  • Healthcare analytics
  • Personalized medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Precision diagnosis: a view of the clinical decision support systems (CDSS) landscape through the lens of critical care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this