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Inside the Lab Clinical care, Profession, Training and education

Test Utilization – More Than Just a Buzzword

When I use the words “test utilization,” what comes to mind? Is it “the right test for the right patient at the right time?” Or do you perhaps think of the Choosing Wisely recommendations – 25 published to date (1) – that caution against potentially overused tests? Test utilization is more than just a buzzword. What we’re actually referencing is the opportunity to help you make laboratory testing more efficient so that your patients receive state-of-the-art testing using assays that are proven to be empirically data-driven and yield the best possible outcome. Often, that means using your expertise to drive behavioral changes both within the laboratory and throughout the entire medical system.

Within the laboratory, we’ve been practicing test utilization from day one. We study reflex protocols to find ways to save money while maintaining test quality and patient safety. We refine test menus by discontinuing old or inefficient methodologies. We also determine which tests can be performed in-house and which ones should be sent to a reference laboratory. We educate our staff so they’re up-to-date on the latest methodologies and gold standards. We develop our own laboratory tests to better serve our patient populations. We analyze internal data and benchmarks to find inappropriate test-ordering practices so that they can be rectified through education. Although these daily tasks are important, educational activities for clinical staff outside the laboratory could have the biggest impact.

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About the Author

E. Blair Holladay

E. Blair Holladay is CEO of the American Society for Clinical Pathology

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