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Strategies to reduce inappropriate laboratory blood test orders in intensive care are effective and safe: a before-and-after quality improvement study

Department of Intensive Care Medicine, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland


Unnecessary pathology tests performed in intensive care units (ICU) might lead to increased costs of care and potential patient harm due to unnecessary phlebotomy. We hypothesised that a multimodal intervention program could result in a safe and effective reduction in the pathology tests ordered in our ICU. We conducted a single-centre pre- and post-study using multimodal interventions to address commonly ordered routine tests. The study was performed during the same six month period (August to February) over three years: 2012 to 2013 (pre-intervention), 2013 to 2014 (intervention) and 2014 to 2015 (post-intervention). Interventions consisted of staff education, designing new pathology forms, consultant-led pathology test ordering and intensive monitoring for a six-month period. The results of the study showed that there was a net savings of over A$213,000 in the intervention period and A$175,000 in the post-intervention period compared to the pre-intervention period. There was a 28% reduction in the tests performed in the intervention period (P <0.0001 compared to pre-intervention period) and 26% in the post-intervention period (P <0.0001 compared to pre-intervention period). There were no ICU or hospital mortality differences between the groups. There were no significant haemoglobin differences between the groups. A multimodal intervention safely reduced pathology test ordering in the ICU, resulting in substantial cost savings.

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