Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the use of clinical laboratory tests in primary care and to evaluate if it is possible to improve the cost-effectiveness of laboratory testing by a short-term education programme. Our main goal has been to lower the total costs of care.
Design: An education programme that was monitored by laboratory test ratios.
Setting: Primary health care.
Subjects: 63 primary care doctors at 19 primary care centres in the county of Uppsala, Sweden.
Main outcome measures: The effects of the education programme were monitored by laboratory test ratios (e.g. ASAT/ALAT) of individual doctors before and after the education programme.
Results: The education programme resulted in significant changes for the majority of the ratios studied. The savings on direct laboratory costs were approximately SEK 400,000 for assays that were recommended to decrease. The increased cost for assays that were recommended to increase was approximately SEK 140,000 but was considered cost-effective.
Conclusion: It is possible to achieve significant changes in clinical chemistry test ordering habits of primary care doctors with a 2 day education programme. It resulted in cost savings and a better use of clinical chemistry tests in primary care. The effects were sustained for at least 6 months.