Impact of add-on laboratory testing at an academic medical center: A five year retrospective study

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Background: Clinical laboratories frequently receive orders to perform additional tests on existing specimens ('add-ons'). Previous studies have examined add-on ordering patterns over short periods of time. The objective of this study was to analyze add-on ordering patterns over an extended time period. We also analyzed the impact of a robotic specimen archival/retrieval system on add-on testing procedure and manual effort. Methods: In this retrospective study at an academic medical center, electronic health records from were searched to obtain all add-on orders that were placed in the time period of May 2, 2009 to December 31, 2014. Results: During the time period of retrospective study, 880,359 add-on tests were ordered on 96,244 different patients. Add-on testing comprised 3.3 % of total test volumes. There were 443,411 unique ordering instances, leading to an average of 1.99 add-on tests per instance. Some patients had multiple episodes of add-on test orders at different points in time, leading to an average of 9.15 add-on tests per patient. The majority of add-on orders were for chemistry tests (78.8 % of total add-ons) with the next most frequent being hematology and coagulation tests (11.2 % of total add-ons). Inpatient orders accounted for 66.8 % of total add-on orders, while the emergency department and outpatient clinics had 14.8 % and 18.4% of total add-on orders, respectively. The majority of add-ons were placed within 8 hours (87.3 %) and nearly all by 24 hours (96.8 %). Nearly 100 % of add-on orders within the emergency department were placed within 8 hours. The introduction of a robotic specimen archival/retrieval unit saved an average of 2.75 minutes of laboratory staff manual time per unique add-on order. This translates to 24.1 hours/day less manual effort in dealing with add-on orders. Conclusion: Our study reflects the previous literature in showing that add-on orders significantly impact the workload of the clinical laboratory. The majority of add-on orders are clinical chemistry tests, and most add-on orders occur within 24 hours of original specimen collection. Robotic specimen archival/retrieval units can reduce manual effort in the clinical laboratory associated with add-on orders.




Nelson, L. S., Davis, S. R., Humble, R. M., Kulhavy, J., Aman, D. R., & Krasowski, M. D. (2015). Impact of add-on laboratory testing at an academic medical center: A five year retrospective study. BMC Clinical Pathology, 15(1).

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