Assessment of decision support for blood test ordering in primary care. a randomized trial

Ann Intern Med. 2001 Feb 20;134(4):274-81. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-134-4-200102200-00010.


Background: Different methods for changing blood test-ordering behavior in primary care have been proven effective. However, randomized trials comparing these methods are lacking.

Objective: To compare the effect of two versions of BloodLink, a computer-based clinical decision support system, on blood test ordering among general practitioners.

Design: Randomized trial.

Setting: 44 practices of general practitioners in the region of Delft, the Netherlands.

Participants: 60 general practitioners in 44 practices who used computer-based patient records in their practices.

Intervention: After stratification by solo practices and group practices, practices were randomly assigned to use BloodLink-Restricted, which initially displays a reduced list of tests, or BloodLink-Guideline, which is based on the guidelines of the Dutch College of General Practitioners.

Measurements: Average number of blood tests ordered per order form per practice.

Results: General practitioners who used BloodLink-Guideline requested 20% fewer tests on average than did practitioners who used BloodLink-Restricted (mean [+/-SD], 5.5 +/- 0.9 tests vs. 6.9 +/- 1.6 tests, respectively; P = 0.003, Mann-Whitney test).

Conclusions: Decision support based on guidelines is more effective in changing blood test-ordering behavior than is decision support based on initially displaying a limited number of tests. Guideline-driven decision support systems can be effective in reducing the number of laboratory tests ordered by primary care practitioners.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Forms and Records Control
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Hematologic Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized
  • Netherlands
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Software
  • Statistics, Nonparametric