Impact of a prospective review program for reference laboratory testing requests

Am J Clin Pathol. 2015 May;143(5):627-34. doi: 10.1309/AJCPN1VCZDVD9ZVX.


Objectives: To control the cost of reference laboratory testing, to ensure that its usage is medically appropriate, and to review the contribution of reference testing to patient care at our institution.

Methods: A multidisciplinary institutional committee was convened to manage the utilization of reference testing. A subset of tests was designated to be reviewed in real time by a team of clinical pathologists in consultation with clinical subject matter experts.

Results: Twelve percent of testing requests, accounting for approximately 18% of send-out costs, were determined to be clinically unnecessary or would not produce actionable results at that point during that patient's care and were therefore not performed. This intervention, combined with insourcing of frequently requested tests, resulted in a reduction in the costs of reference testing to less than half of that predicted by the rate of growth from 2005 to 2009. Molecular diagnostic tests displayed a higher cost per test than other forms of testing but had a similar degree of clinical impact.

Conclusions: Formal prospective review of reference laboratory testing requests resulted in substantial cost containment and improved the efficiency of patient care.

Keywords: Clinical laboratory management; Reference laboratory testing; Send-out testing.

MeSH terms

  • Cost Control / methods*
  • Humans
  • Laboratories, Hospital / economics
  • Laboratories, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Meaningful Use / economics
  • Meaningful Use / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pathology Department, Hospital / economics
  • Pathology Department, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Utilization Review*