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Educational Interventions to reduce unnecessary lab tests

One time educational efforts have not been shown to have a sustaining impact on physician’s test ordering behavior. This is especially true in teaching hospitals where residents turnover every year and may rotate amongst different hospitals. Continuously available and reliable educational materials have proven to be more effective. Examples include online test indications, interpretations and algorithms. A laboratory letter published monthly can become a very effective tool if it provides concise, clinically relevant topics. Educational comments can also be included within clinical guidelines to insure that physicians understand the limits of some tests. 

Laboratory education efforts may want to target tests with the following characteristics:

  • High volume
  • Expensive (immunoassays, molecular)
  • Difficult to perform
  • Questionable medical benefit
  • Unusual number of abnormal results

Educational interventions are much more effective when combined with the administrative and environmental strategies that were discussed in the past two blogs. 

Examples of actual projects that we have successfully undertaken are summarized in the Test Utilization link under the Quality tab of this web site. 

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