In a recent study titled Primary Care Physicians’ Challenges in Ordering Clinical Laboratory Tests and Interpreting Results the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that Primary care physicians routinely experience uncertainty and challenges in ordering and interpreting diagnostic laboratory tests. With more than 500 million primary care patient visits per year, the level of uncertainty reported could potentially affects 23 million patients per year and raises significant concerns about the safe and efficient use of laboratory testing resources. Improvement in information technology and clinical decision support systems and quick access to laboratory consultations may reduce physicians’ uncertainty and mitigate these challenges.

This study, which was sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sheds an important light on a widespread problem in the medical community. The increased number and complexity of laboratory tests presents a significant challenge to primary care physicians in ordering and interpreting tests and even diagnosing conditions.

The study concludes that “Improved ordering methods, improved reporting formats, and access to laboratory consultation are potential ways to lessen uncertainty about ordering laboratory tests and interpreting the results. Collaborations among primary care physicians, laboratory professionals, and bioinformatics experts could generate electronic tools to address the challenges identified in this survey, thus enhancing the safety, effectiveness, efficiency, and timeliness and decreasing the cost of clinical laboratory testing. Our survey results suggest that many physicians are ready to embrace sophisticated electronic clinical decision support tools.”

What other tools and approaches do you see as a solution to addressing uncertainty in ordering and interpreting tests among primary care physicians?