Physicians who follow computer alerts attached to electronic health records find their patients experience fewer hospital complications and lower costs, according to a study on inpatient care.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Aug. 15 reported a research study that showed that hospital patients fared better when doctors followed computer alerts that popped up when they strayed from guidelines for evidence-based care.

Such patients even left the hospital sooner and were less likely to be readmitted.

“Sometimes the best care for certain patient conditions means doing less,” said Dr. Scott Weingarten, chief clinical transformation officer at Cedars-Sinai and a senior author of the study, in a statement. “We have seen that real-time aids for clinical decision-making can potentially help physicians reduce low-value care and improve patient outcomes while lowering costs.”

The Cedars-Sinai study was conducted with Optum Advisory Services and published in The American Journal of Managed Care. It examined more than 26,000 inpatient visits to the Beverly Grove hospital between 2013 and 2016 in which up to 18 of the most frequent alerts were triggered.

Each alert was based on software developed by Stanson Health and sold by Optum, a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc., based in Minnesota. Stanson Health Inc., based in Sherman Oaks, was cofounded by Cedars-Sinai employees and Cedars-Sinai is an investor in the company.

For patients whose physicians followed the alerts, the odds of complications dropped by nearly a third compared with patients whose physicians did not. In addition, patient visits where doctors followed the alerts cost 7 percent less – or $944 per hospital visit – while the number of days these patients spent in the hospital dropped by more than 6 percent.

“Sometimes doctors order tests that they think are in the patient’s best interest, when research doesn’t show that to be the case,” said Dr. Harry C. Sax, executive vice chair of surgery at Cedars-Sinai, and a senior author of the study, in a statement. “Unnecessary testing can lead to interventions that can cause harm.”

Health business reporter Dana Bartholomew can be reached at dbartholomew@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @_DanaBart.