Nudging Health Care Providers’ Adoption of Clinical Decision Support: Protocol for the User-Centered Development of a Behavioral Economics–Inspired Electronic Health Record Tool

Safiya Richardson, Katherine Dauber-Decker, Jeffrey Solomon, Sundas Khan, Douglas Barnaby, John Chelico, Michael Qiu, Yan Liu, Devin Mann, Renee Pekmezaris, Thomas McGinn, Michael Diefenbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: The improvements in care resulting from clinical decision support (CDS) have been significantly limited by consistently low health care provider adoption. Health care provider attitudes toward CDS, specifically psychological and behavioral barriers, are not typically addressed during any stage of CDS development, although they represent an important barrier to adoption. Emerging evidence has shown the surprising power of using insights from the field of behavioral economics to address psychological and behavioral barriers. Nudges are formal applications of behavioral economics, defined as positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions that have a nonforced effect on decision-making. Objective: Our goal is to employ a user-centered design process to develop a CDS tool—the pulmonary embolism (PE) risk calculator—for PE risk stratification in the emergency department that incorporates a behavior theory–informed nudge to address identified behavioral barriers to use. Methods: All study activities took place at a large academic health system in the New York City metropolitan area. Our study used a user-centered and behavior theory–based approach to achieve the following two aims: (1) use mixed methods to identify health care provider barriers to the use of an active CDS tool for PE risk stratification and (2) develop a new CDS tool—the PE risk calculator—that addresses behavioral barriers to health care providers’ adoption of CDS by incorporating nudges into the user interface. These aims were guided by the revised Observational Research Behavioral Information Technology model. A total of 50 clinicians who used the original version of the tool were surveyed with a quantitative instrument that we developed based on a behavior theory framework—the Capability-Opportunity-Motivation-Behavior framework. A semistructured interview guide was developed based on the survey responses. Inductive methods were used to analyze interview session notes and audio recordings from 12 interviews. Revised versions of the tool were developed that incorporated nudges. Results: Functional prototypes were developed by using Axure PRO (Axure Software Solutions) software and usability tested with end users in an iterative agile process (n=10). The tool was redesigned to address 4 identified major barriers to tool use; we included 2 nudges and a default. The 6-month pilot trial for the tool was launched on October 1, 2021. Conclusions: Clinicians highlighted several important psychological and behavioral barriers to CDS use. Addressing these barriers, along with conducting traditional usability testing, facilitated the development of a tool with greater potential to transform clinical care. The tool will be tested in a prospective pilot trial.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere42653
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • behavioral economics
  • clinical decision support
  • electronic health record
  • health informatics
  • implementation science
  • pulmonary embolism
  • user-centered design


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