Objective: To assess the effect of a total quality management (TQM) approach on the appropriateness of clinical laboratory testing of patients with acute myocardial infarction.
Design: Retrospective, control-group, quasi-experimental study.
Setting: Two metropolitan teaching hospitals: one involved in the intervention (TQM experimental group); the other had no intervention (control group).
Intervention: A multidisciplinary team involved in the development of improvement strategies, including laboratory testing guidelines, education programs, data collection, monitoring and feedback.
Outcome measures: Total number of requested clinically indicated and non-clinically indicated tests.
Results: The proportion of clinically indicated tests that were requested increased from 77.5% to 88.2% (P < 0.01) and the number of non-clinically indicated tests was reduced by 81.7% with the introduction of the TQM strategies (P < 0.01).
Conclusions: The introduction of a TQM approach has improved the appropriateness of test ordering in acute myocardial infarction. The reduction in non-clinically indicated tests could produce substantial savings in hospital pathology costs, and the increase in clinically indicated tests provides better patient care.