What is clinical decision support?

The Basics

Clinical decision support (CDS) provides clinicians, staff, patients or other individuals with knowledge and person-specific information, intelligently filtered or presented at appropriate times, to enhance health and better health care. CDS encompasses a variety of tools to enhance decision-making in the clinical workflow. These tools include:

  • Computerized alerts and reminders to care providers and patients based on patient specific data elements, including diagnosis, medication, and gender/age information as well as lab test results
  • Clinical guidelines/established best practices for managing patients with specific disease states
  • Condition-specific order sets
  • Focused patient data reports and summaries
  • Documentation templates
  • Diagnostic support
  • Contextually relevant reference information1

Why It Matters

CDS has a number of important quality improvement benefits, including:

  • Increased health care quality and enhanced patient outcomes
  • Avoidance of errors and adverse events
  • Improved efficiency, cost-benefit, and provider and patient satisfaction

The successful implementation of a clinical decision support system means patients get the right tests, the right medications, and the right treatment.2

For More Information

For information on how to implement CDS, see Core Measure 11 – Clinical Decision Support Rule, which provides lessons from the field and links to several additional resources.

Remember, implementing CDS is part of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs. The EHR Meaningful Use Specification Sheet for Eligible Professionals – Core Measure 11 of 15 [PDF – 99 KB] is available to help you meet the CDS meaningful use core measure.


  1. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. "Clinical Decision Support (CDS)."
  2. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. "Clinical Decision Support (CDS)."
Content last reviewed on January 15, 2013
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