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PLoS One. 2019 May 1;14(5):e0214802. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0214802. eCollection 2019.

The sustainable impact of an educational approach to improve the appropriateness of laboratory test orders in the ICU.

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Department of Intensive Care Medicine, Pellegrin Hospital, Bordeaux, France.
Economic and Financial Department, Pellegrin Hospital, Bordeaux, France.
Departments of Laboratories, Pellegrin Hospital, Bordeaux, France.
Department of Radiology, Pellegrin Hospital, Bordeaux, France.
INSERM, U657 Pharmaco-Epidémiologie et Evaluation de l'Impact des Produits de Santé sur les Populations, France.



Few studies described strategies to improve the use of diagnostic tests in intensive care units (ICU). No study assessed whether their impact was sustained or not. In this study, we assessed whether a multi-faceted intervention for more appropriate use of laboratory testing can decrease the number of tests, is sustainable, is not associated with additional morbidity and represents a potential cost saving.


An open-label prospective cohort study in two separated units of the same medical intensive care unit (ICU) including respectively 3315 and 2392 consecutive patients. After the observation period (2010), a reduction in ICU A of unnecessary diagnostics tests as part of a program including senior supervisory of juniors' orders, encouragements for orders containment at each everyday round discussions (period 2; 2011). Period 3 (2012) consisted in the prolongation of the protocol as a routine care without supervision; Period 4 (2013) was a new period of observation without intervention. No modification was implemented in ICU B in periods 2-4.


After the intervention, a decrease in the overall number of tests per ICU-patient-days (37.3±5.5 (baseline) to 15.2±3.2 (- 59%); p<0.0001) was observed. The total cost of the tests decreased from 239±41 to 104±28 euros per ICU-patient days; p<0.0001. The effect on laboratory test orders was sustainable in period 3 (-49%) and 4 (-30%). No significant secondary effect of the intervention was observed in period 2. In ICU B, there was no significant change in the overall laboratory test orders in between the periods.


Laboratory test containment is effective, likely safe and sustainable provided that an educational program is repeatedly promoted, that it makes sense for the whole team, that senior and junior physicians are both committed in the program, and that encouragements for laboratory orders containment at each everyday round discussions.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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