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Clinical Inertia

Lawrence S. Phillips, MD; William T. Branch Jr., MD; Curtiss B. Cook, MD; Joyce P. Doyle, MD; Imad M. El-Kebbi, MD; Daniel L. Gallina, MD; Christopher D. Miller, MD; David C. Ziemer, MD; and Catherine S. Barnes, PhD
[+] Article and Author Information

From Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.


Grant Support: In part by awards from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institutes of Health: T32-DK-07298 (Dr. Miller) and DK-48124 and HS-09722 (Dr. Phillips).

Acknowledgment: The authors thank Dr. David Ballard for encouragement, support, and thoughtful review of the manuscript.

Requests for Single Reprints: Lawrence S. Phillips, MD, Division of Endocrinology, Emory University School of Medicine, 1639 Pierce Drive, Room 1301, Atlanta, GA 30322; e-mail, medlsp@emory.edu.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Phillips, Branch, Cook, Doyle, El-Kebbi, Gallina, Miller, Ziemer, and Barnes: Emory University School of Medicine, 1639 Pierce Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322.


Ann Intern Med. 2001;135(9):825-834. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-135-9-200111060-00012
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Medicine has traditionally focused on relieving patient symptoms. However, in developed countries, maintaining good health increasingly involves management of such problems as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes, which often have no symptoms. Moreover, abnormal blood pressure, lipid, and glucose values are generally sufficient to warrant treatment without further diagnostic maneuvers. Limitations in managing such problems are often due to clinical inertia—failure of health care providers to initiate or intensify therapy when indicated. Clinical inertia is due to at least three problems: overestimation of care provided; use of “soft” reasons to avoid intensification of therapy; and lack of education, training, and practice organization aimed at achieving therapeutic goals. Strategies to overcome clinical inertia must focus on medical students, residents, and practicing physicians. Revised education programs should lead to assimilation of three concepts: the benefits of treating to therapeutic targets, the practical complexity of treating to target for different disorders, and the need to structure routine practice to facilitate effective management of disorders for which resolution of patient symptoms is not sufficient to guide care. Physicians will need to build into their practice a system of reminders and performance feedback to ensure necessary care.

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