Objectives: Order sets are widely used in hospitals to enter diagnosis and treatment orders. To determine the effectiveness of order sets in improving guideline adherence, treatment outcomes, processes of care, efficiency, and cost, we conducted a systematic review of the literature.
Methods: A comprehensive literature search was performed in various databases for studies published between January 1, 1990, and April 18, 2009. A total of eighteen studies met inclusion criteria. No randomized controlled trials were found.
Results: Outcomes of the included studies were summarized qualitatively due to variations in study population, intervention type, and outcome measures. There were no important inconsistencies between the results reported by studies involving different types of order sets. While the studies generally suggested positive outcomes, they were typically of low quality, with simple before-after designs and other methodological limitations.
Conclusions: The benefits of order sets remain eminently plausible, but given the paucity of high quality evidence, further investigations to formally evaluate the effectiveness of order sets would be highly valuable.