Clinical Decision Support Tools (And Why Veterinarians Need Them)

May 2, 2022
4 min

Medical knowledge is expanding exponentially. By some estimates, it doubles every 73 days—faster than we can effectively learn and apply it. In the face of this onslaught, how can veterinary practitioners maintain the essential working knowledge needed for the multiple high-stakes decisions they make under pressure every day?

In human medicine, the widespread adoption of clinical decision support (CDS) tools has been crucial for facing this challenge. Not to be confused with the more automated clinical decision support systems, CDS tools are typically peer-reviewed, continually updated digital medical references that compile essential medical resources for ease of use in clinical practice. 

While the feature mix varies, CDS tools often include summaries of clinical conditions, diagnostic trees, client education tools, a drug reference, and other interactive elements, including images, videos, calculators, and drug interaction checkers. 

The Impact of Clinical Decision Support Tools

CDS tools have measurably and anecdotally had a significant impact on human medicine.

The Research

Studies in human medicine suggest that CDS tools can:

What Human Clinicians Have to Say

Given these research findings, it’s not surprising to hear our colleagues in human healthcare describe these as tools they can’t imagine practicing without—tools that are “indispensable” and “always open.”1 

Practitioners often refer to their CDS tool at the start of their shift, while reviewing their schedule before patients begin arriving. Whether they’re seeing a patient on a challenging recheck, second opinion, or for an unusual presentation, they can depend on CDS tools to provide background information that helps narrow their focus and determine which differentials might be most likely for that patient’s signalment and presenting complaint.1

While CDS tools can help practitioners prepare, they’re also efficient and complete enough to use during unexpected situations. Easily accessible during appointments, these tools allow clinicians to pivot quickly. They’re especially convenient to use because all that information is accessible from the nearest internet-connected device, whether that’s a nearby workstation or a personal mobile device. About one-third of searches done on UptoDate, one of the most popular CDS tools in human healthcare, are done via mobile devices

Once a clinician has more information, these tools also allow them to quickly review diagnostic and treatment approaches. This makes it easier to double-check yourself (because sometimes there’s that weird differential you don’t want to forget) and make sure nothing significant has changed with the clinical consensus.1 It’s impossible to keep it all in your head, and even the most continuing-education–obsessed practitioners can miss something.1 Without a reference that stays up to date, it’s hard to know what you don’t know.1

These tools also help engage human patients in the decision-making process with client education materials that can help improve compliance. Ideal tools help practitioners clearly and simply explain diagnoses, at-home treatment, and when to come back without overwhelming patients with a dozen pages of details.1

Finally, CDS tools help provide practitioners peace of mind at the end of the day while writing up files or doing additional research on a complicated case, reassuring them that they got the details right and didn’t miss something important.1

Clinical Decision Support Tools for Veterinarians

As veterinarians, we can ask a colleague for their opinion (if they’re available), drag a textbook off a shelf, shuffle through our old school notes, or see if veterinarians on a social media group have any insights. Unfortunately, these approaches aren’t very efficient and don’t often provide expert or particularly up-to-date information.

Veterinarians deserve an authoritative clinical decision support tool that is easy to navigate and has information we can count on.  

And that’s why we built Plumb’s Pro. This all-new CDS tool for veterinarians contains original clinical content written, reviewed, and continually updated by subject matter specialists. The information is easy to find on the same popular, accessible-from-anywhere platform as Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs, where thousands of veterinarians already reference drug information multiple times a day.

Meet Plumb’s Pro

Plumb’s Pro includes:

In the face of information overwhelm, clinical decision support tools have made a world of difference for our colleagues in human medicine. Imagine how adding this kind of support could not only make your life easier but also help your practice and patients.

Watch our free on-demand demo to see how Plumb’s Pro works for a veterinarian’s real-life cases.

We’d like to thank Abigail C. Ho, FNP-C, for sharing her experiences and knowledge about the use of CDS tools in human healthcare. Her insights were particularly helpful and deeply appreciated.


  1. Abigail C. Ho, FNP-C. Phone interview. March 17, 2022.