The authors describe the history and current use of computerized systems for implementing treatment guidelines in general medicine as well as the development, testing, and early use of a computerized decision support system for depression treatment among "real-world" clinical settings in Texas. In 1999 health care experts from Europe and the United States met to confront the well-documented challenges of implementing treatment guidelines and to identify strategies for improvement. They suggested the integration of guidelines into computer systems that is incorporated into clinical workflow. Several studies have demonstrated improvements in physicians' adherence to guidelines when such guidelines are provided in a computerized format. Although computerized decision support systems are being used in many areas of medicine and have demonstrated improved patient outcomes, their use in psychiatric illness is limited. The authors designed and developed a computerized decision support system for the treatment of major depressive disorder by using evidence-based guidelines, transferring the knowledge gained from the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP). This computerized decision support system (CompTMAP) provides support in diagnosis, treatment, follow-up, and preventive care and can be incorporated into the clinical setting. CompTMAP has gone through extensive testing to ensure accuracy and reliability. Physician surveys have indicated a positive response to CompTMAP, although the sample was insufficient for statistical testing. CompTMAP is part of a new era of comprehensive computerized decision support systems that take advantage of advances in automation and provide more complete clinical support to physicians in clinical practice.
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