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BMC Med Educ. 2013 Aug 14;13:109. doi: 10.1186/1472-6920-13-109.

Ordering patterns for laboratory and radiology tests by students from different undergraduate medical curricula.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany. harendza@uke.de



The overuse of laboratory tests and radiology imaging and their possible hazards to patients and the health care system is observed with growing concern in the medical community. With this study the authors wished to determine whether ordering patterns for laboratory and radiology tests by medical students close to their graduation are related to undergraduate training.


We developed an assessment for near graduates in the setting of a resident's daily routine including a consultation hour with five simulated patients, three hours for patient work up with simulated distracting tasks, and thirty minutes for reporting of patient management to a supervisor. In 2011, 60 students participated in this assessment: 30 from a vertically integrated (VI) curriculum (Utrecht, The Netherlands) and 30 from a traditional, non-VI curriculum (Hamburg, Germany). We assessed and compared the number of laboratory and radiology requests and correlated the results with the scores participants received from their supervisors for the facet of competence "scientifically and empirically grounded method of working".


Students from a VI curriculum used significantly (p < .01) less total laboratory requests (N = 283 versus N = 466) which correlated with their scores for a "scientifically and empirically grounded method of working" (Pearson's r = .572). A significantly (p < .01) higher number of radiology imaging was ordered with a large effect size (V = .618) by near graduates from a non-VI curriculum (N = 156 versus N = 97) even when this was not supporting the diagnostic process.


The focused ordering patterns from VI students might be a result of their early exposure to the clinical environment and a different approach to clinical decision making during their undergraduate education which further studies should address in greater detail.

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