Reducing test utilization in hospital settings: A narrative review

Renuka S. Bindraban, Maarten J. ten Berg, Christiana A. Naaktgeboren, Mark H.H. Kramer, Wouter W. Van Solinge, Prabath W.B. Nanayakkara

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Studies addressing the appropriateness of laboratory testing have revealed approximately 20% overutilization. We conducted a narrative review to (1) describe current interventions aimed at reducing unnecessary laboratory testing, specifically in hospital settings, and (2) provide estimates of their efficacy in reducing test order volume and improving patient-related clinical outcomes. Methods: The PubMed, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, and Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health-Health Technology Assessment databases were searched for studies describing the effects of interventions aimed at reducing unnecessary laboratory tests. Data on test order volume and clinical outcomes were extracted by one reviewer, while uncertainties were discussed with two other reviewers. Because of the heterogeneity of interventions and outcomes, no meta-analysis was performed. Results: Eighty-four studies were included. Interventions were categorized into educational, (computerized) provider order entry [(C)POE], audit and feedback, or other interventions. Nearly all studies reported a reduction in test order volume. Only 15 assessed sustainability up to two years. Patient-related clinical outcomes were reported in 45 studies, two of which found negative effects. Conclusions: Interventions from all categories have the potential to reduce unnecessary laboratory testing, although long-term sustainability is questionable. Owing to the heterogeneity of the interventions studied, it is difficult to conclude which approach was most successful, and for which tests. Most studies had methodological limitations, such as the absence of a control arm. Therefore, well-designed, controlled trials using clearly described interventions and relevant clinical outcomes are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-412
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of laboratory medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Intervention
  • Laboratory testing
  • Laboratory utilization
  • Reduction
  • Unnecessary laboratory testing
  • Unnecessary laboratory utilization

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