Article Text

Factors contributing to inappropriate ordering of tests in an academic medical department and the effect of an educational feedback strategy
  1. Spiros Miyakis,
  2. Georgios Karamanof,
  3. Michalis Liontos,
  4. Theodore D Mountokalakis
  1. Third Department of Internal Medicine, University of Athens, Sotiria General Hospital, Athens, Greece
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S Miyakis
 Department of Immunology, Allergy, and Infectious Disease, St George Hospital, 2 South Street, Kogarah, NSW 2217, Australia; Spiros.Miyakis{at}


Aims: To identify factors contributing to laboratory overutilisation in an academic medical department, and to assess the effect of an educational feedback strategy on inappropriate test-ordering behaviour.

Methods: The records of 426 patients admitted during a 6-month period were reviewed. The usefulness of 25 investigations (haematology, basic biochemistry and arterial blood gases) was assessed according to implicit criteria. Trainees’ acquaintance with investigation costs was assessed via a multiple-choice questionnaire. The medical staff was informed about their test-ordering behaviour, cost awareness and the factors associated with overuse of diagnostic tests. The test-ordering behaviour of the same doctors was reassessed on 214 patients managed during 6 months after the intervention.

Results: Overall, 24 482 laboratory tests were ordered before the intervention (mean 2.96 tests/patient/day). Among those, 67.9% were not considered to have contributed towards management of patients (mean avoidable 2.01 tests/patient/day). Patient age ⩾65 years, hospitalisation beyond 7 days and increased case difficulty (death or inability to establish a diagnosis) were factors independently associated with overuse of laboratory tests. Senior trainees ordered more laboratory examinations, but the percentage of avoidable tests requested by junior trainees was higher. A moderate and disparate level of trainees’ awareness about the cost of common laboratory examinations was disclosed. The avoidable tests/patient/day were significantly decreased after the intervention (mean 1.58, p = 0.002), but containment of unnecessary ordering of tests gradually waned during the semester after the intervention.

Conclusion: Repeated audit, continuous education and alertness of doctors, on the basis of assessment of factors contributing to laboratory overutilisation, result in restraining the redundant ordering of tests in the hospital setting.

  • ABGs, arterial blood gases
  • FBC, full blood count
  • laboratory utilization
  • blood tests
  • diagnosis
  • cost
  • internal medicine
View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Competing interests: None.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.