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May 23, 1980

Why Do Physicians Order Laboratory Tests?A Study of Laboratory Test Request and Use Patterns

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pathology, Medical Center Del Oro Hospital, Houston (Dr Wertman), Department of Pathology, Memorial Hospital of Panorama City, Panorama City, Calif (Dr Sostrin), Department of Pathology, University of Vermont, Burlington (Dr Pavlova), and the Department of Pathology, University of California, Davis (Dr Lundberg).

JAMA. 1980;243(20):2080-2082. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300460054033

THE NUMBER of clinical laboratory tests performed has increased greatly in recent years in nearly all health centers in the United States. This rise in laboratory use has been a major factor contributing to escalating health care costs.1 The need for so large a number of laboratory tests has quite reasonably been questioned.2 Several authors3-6 have offered reasons for the increased number of tests. These include overzealous documentation, medicolegal considerSee also p 2053. ations, building of a personal data base, public relations, and profit, in addition to valid clinical indications.

Little hard data are available in print to document why physicians order laboratory tests or to indicate what percentage of tests is ordered for the various reasons cited.5-7 This study collected such information by asking physicians directly why they ordered laboratory tests and whether and how the results influenced their diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.

Methods  The

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