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Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (CCLM)

Published in Association with the European Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (EFLM)

Editor-in-Chief: Plebani, Mario

Editorial Board Member: Gillery, Philippe / Kazmierczak, Steven / Lackner, Karl J. / Lippi, Giuseppe / Melichar, Bohuslav / Schlattmann, Peter / Whitfield, John B.

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Improved Laboratory Test Selection and Enhanced Perception of Test Results as Tools for Cost-Effective Medicine

Michael Mayer / Ian Wilkinson / Risto Heikkinen / Torben Ørntoft / Erik Magid

Citation Information: Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine. Volume 36, Issue 9, Pages 683–690, ISSN (Print) 1434-6621, DOI: 10.1515/CCLM.1998.121, June 2005

Publication History

Published Online:
2005-06-01

Abstract

Inconsistencies in the way physicians perceive and handle identical laboratory results have untoward effects on morbidity, mortality and cost of medical care. In this context, the selection of suitable tests to answer definite clinical questions, and the manner in which laboratory results are presented have great impact on the action taken by the clinician.

This review addresses preferred methods to improve laboratory test selection, and examines methods that more effectively convey laboratory results to clinicians. It is anticipated that refined selection of tests, and presentation of the test results in a configuration that is easily perceived by the clinician, will facilitate interpretation of laboratory reports. Furthermore, any measures that promote the application of laboratory information in medical practice improve economics at the laboratory-clinical interface.

The presently described methods to optimize test selection and interpretation are:

likelihood ratios to provide estimates of the ability of a test to identify a clinical condition;

consensus-and discriminant function-analysis to estimate the performance of tests in diagnosing a particular disease or condition;

receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves to assess discrimination capabilities.

The methods which improve test result perception are expression of results as multiples of the upper normal limit, utilizing signal strength to provide prognostic probabilities, and presentation of results in graphic forms that display mutually interrelated functions, with a specific cluster of results being highly suggestive of a given condition.

In addition, we discuss application of expert systems to provide rules based on knowledge and experience to analyze results of tests and suggest diagnosis and action, including additional tests when required.

It is anticipated that judicious utilization of laboratory services by application of the reviewed methodologies will help to achieve medically justified responses at a lower cost and help to achieve a proper balance between cost of tests and their clinical usefulness.

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