Reflective testing is a procedure in which the laboratory specialist adds additional tests and/or comments to an original request, after inspection (reflection) of the results. It can be considered as an extension of the authorization process where laboratory tests are inspected before reporting to the physician. The laboratory specialist will inevitably find inconclusive results, and additional testing can contribute to make the appropriate diagnosis. Several studies have been published on the effects of reflective testing. Some studies focus on the opinion of the general practitioners or other clinicians, whereas other studies were intended to determine the patient’s perspective. Overall, reflective testing was judged as a useful way to improve the process of diagnosing (and treating) patients. There is to date scarce high quality scientific evidence of the effectiveness of this procedure in terms of patient management. A randomized clinical trial investigating this aspect is however ongoing. Cost effectiveness of reflective testing still needs to be determined in the future. In conclusion, reflective testing can be seen as a new dimension in the service of the clinical chemistry laboratory to primary health care. Additional research is needed to deliver the scientific proof of the effectiveness of reflective testing for patient management.
Intake of drugs may influence the interpretation of laboratory test results. Knowledge and correct interpretation of possible drug-laboratory test interactions (DLTIs) is important for physicians, pharmacists and laboratory specialists. Laboratory results may be affected by analytical or physiological effects of medication. Failure to take into account the possible unintended influence of drug use on a laboratory test result may lead to incorrect diagnosis, incorrect treatment and unnecessary follow-up. The aim of this review is to give an overview of the literature investigating the clinical impact and use of DLTI decision support systems on laboratory test interpretation. Particular interactions were reported in a large number of articles, but they were fragmentarily described and some papers even reported contradictory findings. To provide an overview of information that clinicians and laboratory staff need to interpret test results, DLTI databases have been made by several groups. In a literature search, only four relevant studies have been found on DLTI decision support applications for laboratory test interpretation in clinical practice. These studies show a potential benefit of automated DLTI messages to physicians for the correct interpretation of laboratory test results. Physicians reported 30–100% usefulness of DLTI messages. In one study 74% of physicians sometimes even refrained from further additional examination. The benefit of decision support increases when a refined set of clinical rules is determined in cooperation with health care professionals. The prevalence of DLTIs is high in a broad range of combinations of laboratory tests and drugs and these frequently remain unrecognized.
Knowledge of possible drug-laboratory test interactions (DLTIs) is important for the interpretation of laboratory test results. Test results may be affected by physiological or analytical drug effects. Failure to recognize these interactions may lead to misinterpretation of test results, a delayed or erroneous diagnosis or unnecessary extra tests or therapy, which may harm patients.
Thousands of interactions have been reported in the literature, but are often fragmentarily described and some papers even reported contradictory findings. How can healthcare professionals become aware of all these possible interactions in their individual patients? DLTI decision support applications could be a good solution. In a literature search, only four relevant studies have been found on DLTI decision support applications in clinical practice. These studies show a potential benefit of automated DLTI messages to physicians for the interpretation of laboratory test results. All physicians reported that part of the DLTI messages were useful. In one study, 74% of physicians even sometimes refrained from further additional examination.
Summary and outlook
Unrecognized DLTIs potentially cause diagnostic errors in a large number of patients. Therefore, efforts to avoid these errors, for example with a DLTI decision support application, could tremendously improve patient outcome.