The Use of Laboratory Analyses in Sweden : Quality and Cost-Effectiveness in Test Utilization

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Laboratory analyses, essential in screening, diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of disease, are indispensable in health care, but appropriate utilization is intricate. The overall aim of this thesis was to study the use of laboratory tests in Sweden with the objective to evaluate and optimize test utilization.Considerable inter-county variations in test utilization in primary health care in Sweden were found; variations likely influenced by local traditions and habits of test ordering leading to over- as well as underutilization. Optimized test utilization was demonstrated to convey improved quality and substantial cost savings.It was further established that continuing medical education is a suitable means of optimizing test utilization, and consequently enhancing quality and cost-efficiency, as such education was demonstrated to achieve long-lasting improvements in the test ordering habits of primary health care physicians.Laboratory tests are closely associated with other, greater, health care costs, but their indirect effects on other areas of medicine are rarely evaluated or measured in monetary terms. In an illustrative example of the effects that optimal test utilization may have on associated health care costs it was demonstrated that F-calprotectin, a fecal marker of intestinal inflammation, has the potential to substantially reduce the number of invasive investigations necessary in, and the costs associated with, the diagnosis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.Information on trends in test utilization is essential to optimal financial management of laboratories. A longitudinal evaluation revealed that test utilization had increased by 70% in 6 years, and even though the selection of tests more than doubled, a very small number of tests represented a stable, and disproportionally large, share of the total number of tests ordered. The study defines trends and thus has potential predictive values.In summary, appropriate utilization of laboratory analyses has both clinical and economical benefits on all levels of health care.

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