Laboratory services utilization: a survey of repeat investigations in ambulatory care

P J Branger, R J Van Oers, J C Van der Wouden, J van der Lei

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BACKGROUND: Earlier studies have shown that repeat investigations are a common cause of unnecessary duplication of laboratory test procedures. Most of the interventions aimed at reducing the number of repeat investigations have not resulted in long-term improvements. None of these studies, however, assessed utilization of laboratory services by physicians, simultaneously treating the same patient.

METHODS: For a random sample of 1500 patients, we examined laboratory services utilization by physicians during an 8-month period. We counted the number of patients for whom more than one physician ordered laboratory test procedures simultaneously, and to what extent these procedures overlapped.

RESULTS: For 28% of the patients more than one physician had ordered tests. Of all 41,655 tests, 5536 (13%) were repeated by a physician other than the physician who ordered the initial test: 1527 (4%) of the tests were repeated within 5 days. Patients between 70 and 90 years had the highest average number of tests, the highest number of involved physicians, and the smallest mean time between similar tests.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a need for better coordination of care. Improved communication among physicians simultaneously treating a patient may lead to a reduction of repeat investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-13
Number of pages6
JournalNetherlands journal of medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care/statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques/utilization
  • Health Services Misuse
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged

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