APR 27, 2016 7:16 AM PDT

Study Reveals Doctors Order Lab Tests in Excess

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
Too much diagnostic testing?
When it comes to medical testing, more is not always better. This is the sentiment from a recent research examining the use (or overuse) of antibody testing in age-related immune disorders. The audit revealed that excessive testing often did not add medical benefits for the patients, but could actually cost the health care system many thousands of dollars.
 
To diagnose, monitor, and prevent disease, doctors often rely on laboratory tests, which provide much more information than can be gleaned with the naked eye and hands. While the clinical utility of laboratory tests are undeniable, not every case warrants an extensive battery of lab tests. And for a team of doctors at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, excessive testing happens all too often.
 
The team set out to determine whether over-testing was clinically beneficial. They examined the records of 237 patients age 19-87 who had a total of 1,503 episodes of testing. Specifically, these patients had a range of serum testing done to identify abnormal quantities of the M-protein antibodies in their blood, which could be indicative of the cancer multiple myeloma.
 
They found in nearly half the time, patients didn’t need an array of tests done. “About 40-50 percent of the second tests are not needed or adding value," said Gurmukh Singh, chief of the Section of Clinical Pathology and Walter L. Shepeard Chair in Clinical Pathology, and the study’s senior author.
 
Rather than ordering the array of test from the get-go, or ordering the tests multiple times, Singh proposes a more thoughtful, methodical approach. He suggests an initial workup to determine presence of the M-protein. Then, before ordering additional tests, the physicians should consider multitude of factors, including the quantity of the abnormal antibody and the patient’s medical history.
 
"These are stepwise things. If it's a new patient, do this; if it's a known patient, do that. Results drive it. That will reduce the number of tests that are done without in any way being of detriment to the patient or the quality of care," Singh said.
 
In his audit, Singh reported that the secondary testing was warranted in less than 50 percent of the time. But yet there were 1,503 tests ordered for 237 patients, which average to be over 6 tests per patient. If testing is done systematically instead of indiscriminately, the team estimates that their medical institution alone could have saved over $64,000 in one year in health care costs. The number quickly adds up to millions if multiplied by the many hospitals all around the nation. "It's better for patients and for health care delivery in general," Singh said.
 
Of course it’s not always so black and white. Physicians don’t always encounter “text-book” patients with clear-cut paths to diagnosis and treatment. And so the standby has always been to err on the side of caution and order more tests. But studies like this and others suggest that thoughtful evaluation of every test could save time, money, and distress for the patients.
 

Additional source: EurekAlert!
About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 07, 2022
Cardiology
Reduce TV Viewing to Prevent Heart Disease
JUL 07, 2022
Reduce TV Viewing to Prevent Heart Disease
According to new research, over 10% of coronary heart disease cases could be prevented by watching less than one hour of ...
JUN 25, 2022
Health & Medicine
Excess Sitting Is Bad for Your Health but Exercise Can Help with That
JUN 25, 2022
Excess Sitting Is Bad for Your Health but Exercise Can Help with That
Winston Churchill said, "Never stand up when you can sit down." Nowadays, sitting down is an unavoidable part ...
JUN 26, 2022
Neuroscience
Poor Eyesight in Older Individuals Linked to Dementia
JUN 26, 2022
Poor Eyesight in Older Individuals Linked to Dementia
Older adults with untreated sight conditions may be at an increased risk of dementia. The corresponding study was publis ...
JUL 14, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
A magnetic bead for every need: Expanding applications with conjugated magnetic beads
JUL 14, 2022
A magnetic bead for every need: Expanding applications with conjugated magnetic beads
Magnetic beads (or superparamagnetic particles) can be used for the isolation and purification of cells, nucleic acids, ...
JUL 28, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
The benefits of lyophilization in assay kit development: Maximizing the integrity and shelf life of reagents
JUL 28, 2022
The benefits of lyophilization in assay kit development: Maximizing the integrity and shelf life of reagents
Freeze drying, lyophilization, and cryodesiccation are all terms used to describe the process of removing water from a s ...
JUL 18, 2022
Neuroscience
Maternal Milk for Preterm Infants Linked to Better Academic Performance, Lower ADHD Risk
JUL 18, 2022
Maternal Milk for Preterm Infants Linked to Better Academic Performance, Lower ADHD Risk
Babies born preterm who are fed maternal milk have greater academic achievement, higher IQ’s, and a lower risk of ...
Loading Comments...