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J Clin Microbiol. 1996 Feb;34(2):355-7.

Cost and time savings following introduction of rejection criteria for clinical specimens.

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Clinical Microbiology Laboratory, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


We have evaluated the yield of several tests and have instituted specimen rejection criteria to reduce costs and save time. For a 12-month period, we recorded the reduction of these tests and calculated the resultant cost and time savings. Seven changes were analyzed: not performing fungal or mycobacterial (acid-fast bacillus) cultures on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimens from patients without known immunosuppression when chemistry and cell count are normal; not performing routine stool culture or ovum and parasite examination on specimens from patients in the hospital for > 3 days; not culturing endotracheal suction aspirates when no organisms or > 10 squamous epithelial cells are present; discontinuing broth cultures on all specimens except for tissue, continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis fluid, and CSF from patients with shunts; and eliminating bacterial antigen tests. For each test, the number not performed (n), reagent savings, and technologist time saved, respectively, were as follows: CSF fungal culture, 267, $999, and 67 h; CSF acid-fast bacillus culture, 275, $1,662, and 124 h; stool cultures, 320, $2,991, and 98 h; ovum and parasite examinations, 216, $525, and 108 h; endotracheal suction aspirate cultures, 1,505, $4,447, and 306 h; broth cultures, 5,218, $4,931, and 80 h; and bacterial antigen tests, 2,598, $2,293, and 299 h. Overall, 5,181 tests were rejected and 5,218 broth cultures were omitted. Achievable savings were $28,000 in reagent costs and 1,082 h of technologist time. In conclusion, rejecting specimens of proven low yield saves reagent costs and, more importantly, saves technologist time. This time can be spent on specimens having greater diagnostic utility.

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