Managing Medications

Electronic Tools Can Improve ADHD Treatment

A new study indicates that electronic scheduling tools can help doctors better adhere to AAP guidelines for the treatment of ADHD.

Doctor and parent of ADHD kid discuss insurance
Doctor and parent of ADHD kid discuss insurance

Using automated electronic tools to schedule follow-up appointments, medication refills, and other routine care may help doctors better stick to AAP guidelines for the treatment of ADHD, recent data indicates.

The research — presented at the 2015 National Conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) — focused on 22 primary-care clinics, and included 70 different board-certified pediatricians. A 2013 survey revealed widespread mismanagement of ADHD patients at these clinics, with only 60 percent of the doctors fully understanding the AAP guidelines – and even fewer following them. The AAP guidelines, most recently updated in 2011, are widely considered best practices for treating ADHD in children. The guidelines cover everything from behavioral therapy to medication management.

To address the problem, the researchers built an electronic template that could manage refill needs, medication check-up schedules, and biannual follow-up appointments. For this preliminary study, the program focused solely on medication management, as medication is the frontline treatment according to AAP guidelines — and is easily quantifiable.

The electronic tool prompted clinic staff automatically — based on the prescriptions laid out in the AAP guidelines — when a patient was due for a follow-up appointment, needed a medication refill, or should be assessed for a medication’s efficacy. The tool used an electronic signature function to determine which doctors were using the program, and how often.

Once they were introduced to the tool, researchers reported that the pediatricians followed the AAP guidelines in about 80 percent of their ADHD-related encounters — a vast improvement over the previous survey results. Adherence to medication check appointments improved significantly as well.

“With electronic decision support, it is possible for busy pediatricians to provide care for kids with chronic conditions like ADHD in a medical home, following guidelines,” , a researcher on the study. “Hopefully, we can affect long-term outcomes in ADHD — which has a great cost to society — by implementing the right process based on the evidence-based guidelines.”