Importance: Inpatient care providers often order laboratory tests without any appreciation for the costs of the tests.
Objective: To determine whether we could decrease the number of laboratory tests ordered by presenting providers with test fees at the time of order entry in a tertiary care hospital, without adding extra steps to the ordering process.
Design: Controlled clinical trial.
Setting: Tertiary care hospital.
Participants: All providers, including physicians and nonphysicians, who ordered laboratory tests through the computerized provider order entry system at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Intervention: We randomly assigned 61 diagnostic laboratory tests to an "active" arm (fee displayed) or to a control arm (fee not displayed). During a 6-month baseline period (November 10, 2008, through May 9, 2009), we did not display any fee data. During a 6-month intervention period 1 year later (November 10, 2009, through May 9, 2010), we displayed fees, based on the Medicare allowable fee, for active tests only.
Main outcome measures: We examined changes in the total number of orders placed, the frequency of ordered tests (per patient-day), and total charges associated with the orders according to the time period (baseline vs intervention period) and by study group (active test vs control).
Results: For the active arm tests, rates of test ordering were reduced from 3.72 tests per patient-day in the baseline period to 3.40 tests per patient-day in the intervention period (8.59% decrease; 95% CI, -8.99% to -8.19%). For control arm tests, ordering increased from 1.15 to 1.22 tests per patient-day from the baseline period to the intervention period (5.64% increase; 95% CI, 4.90% to 6.39%) (P < .001 for difference over time between active and control tests).
Conclusions and relevance: Presenting fee data to providers at the time of order entry resulted in a modest decrease in test ordering. Adoption of this intervention may reduce the number of inappropriately ordered diagnostic tests.