American Journal of Medicine, internal medicine, medicine, health, healthy lifestyles, cancer, heart disease, drugs

High-Value, Cost-Conscious Care: Iterative Systems-Based Interventions to Reduce Unnecessary Laboratory Testing

young female doctor examines x-ray

Inappropriate testing contributes to soaring healthcare costs within the United States, and teaching hospitals are vulnerable to providing care largely for academic development. Via its “Choosing Wisely” campaign, the American Board of Internal Medicine recommends avoiding repetitive testing for stable inpatients. We designed systems-based interventions to reduce laboratory orders for patients admitted to the wards at an academic facility.


We identified the computer-based order entry system as an appropriate target for sustainable intervention. The admission order set had allowed multiple routine tests to be ordered repetitively each day. Our iterative study included interventions on the automated order set and cost displays at order entry. The primary outcome was number of routine tests controlled for inpatient days compared with the preceding year. Secondary outcomes included cost savings, delays in care, and adverse events.


Data were collected over a 2-month period following interventions in sequential years and compared with the year prior. The first intervention led to 0.97 fewer laboratory tests per inpatient day (19.4%). The second intervention led to sustained reduction, although by less of a margin than order set modifications alone (15.3%). When extrapolating the results utilizing fees from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, there was a cost savings of $290,000 over 2 years. Qualitative survey data did not suggest an increase in care delays or near-miss events.


This series of interventions targeting unnecessary testing demonstrated a sustained reduction in the number of routine tests ordered, without adverse effects on clinical care.

To read this article in its entirety please visit our website.

-Brett W. Sadowski, MD, Alison B. Lane, MD, MS, Shannon M. Wood, MD, MPH, Sara L. Robinson, MD, MS, Chin Hee Kim, MD

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

Comments are closed.