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Ann Clin Biochem. 1987 May;24 ( Pt 3):223-31.

Strategies to modify the test-requesting patterns of clinicians.


Studies of the effectiveness of various strategies for influencing clinicians' test-requesting behaviour are reviewed. Numerical rationing, although crude, effectively reduces unnecessary repeat testing without detriment to patient outcome. Educational programmes involving peer review show pronounced but short-lived effects. Simple feedback of information about numbers of tests requested and their costs is surprisingly ineffectual. Direct financial incentives, in a private health care system, also failed. Clinical budgeting, of benefit in experimental trials, has yet to be widely tested, and the savings on reducing laboratory requesting may not be large enough to be attractive to clinicians. Agreed requesting policies in various specialties and clinical circumstances, endorsed by senior clinicians and prestigious professional bodies, seems a promising approach to more appropriate test requesting; further objective studies of their long-term effects are needed. Redesign of request forms into a problem-orientated format may be the simplest and most effective contribution by the laboratory; this strategy deserves further critical appraisal.

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