Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center used two relatively simple tactics to significantly reduce the number of unnecessary blood tests to assess symptoms of heart attack and chest pain and to achieve a large decrease in patient charges.
The team provided information and education to physicians about proven testing guidelines and made changes to the computerized provider order entry system at the medical centre, part of the Johns Hopkins Health System. The guidelines call for more limited use of blood tests for so-called cardiac biomarkers. A year after implementation, the guidelines saved the medical centre an estimated $1.25 million in laboratory charges.
In this case, part of the focus was on tests to assess levels of troponin, a protein whose components increase in the blood when heart muscle is damaged. Frequently, troponin tests are repeated four or more times in a 24-hour period, which studies have suggested is excessive, and they are often done along with tests for other biomarkers that are redundant.
In a report the research team describes how these interventions reduced overuse of troponin and other biomarker testing without compromising patient care. If adopted widely, the team says, cost savings could be substantial.