Objectives The use of unnecessary laboratory tests is one of the factors that may contribute to overdiagnosis. The way software for electronic health records and laboratory tests ordering systems are designed may influence physicians’ prescription. A randomised controlled trial was performed to measure the impact of a diagnostic and laboratory tests ordering system software modification.
Method Participants were family physicians working and prescribing diagnostic and laboratory tests. The intervention group had a modified software with a basic shortcut menu changes, where some tests were withdrawn or added, and with the implementation of an evidence-based decision support based on the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations. This intervention group was compared with usual software (control group). The outcomes were the number of tests prescribed from those: withdrawn from the basic menu; added to the basic menu; marked with green dots (USPSTF’s grade A and B); and marked with red dots (USPSTF’s grade D).
Results Comparing the monthly average number of tests prescribed before and after the software modification, from those tests that were withdrawn from the basic menu, the control group prescribed 33.8 tests per 100 consultations before and 30.8 after (p=0.075); the intervention group prescribed 31.3 before and 13.9 after (p<0.001). Comparing the tests prescribed between both groups during the intervention, from those tests that were withdrawn from the basic menu, the intervention group prescribed a monthly average of 14.0 vs 29.3 tests per 100 consultations in the control group (p<0.001). From those tests categorised as USPSTF grade D, the intervention group prescribed an average of 9.8 vs 11.8 tests per 100 consultations in the control group (p=0.003).
Conclusions Removing unnecessary tests from a quick shortcut menu of the diagnosis and laboratory tests ordering system had a significant impact and reduced unnecessary prescription of tests. The fact that it was not possible to perform the randomization at the family physicians’ level, but only of the computer servers is a limitation of our study. Future research should assess the impact of different tests ordering systems during longer periods.
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