News Feature | November 19, 2013

Software Modification Reduces Testing, Saves Money

Source: Health IT Outcomes
Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

Modifying software design reduced tests and decreased patient costs according to research from the University of Missouri

University of Missouri researchers have found a way to eliminate unnecessary tests and reduce costs by simply modifying test order lists. EHRIntelligence reports Victoria Shaffer, an assistant professor of health sciences in the MU School of Health Professions, and her team conducted their test by observing how physicians chose tests when given three order set list designs on the same electronic medical system.

“The first - and standard method - was an opt-in system with no pre-selected tests. The second choice was an opt-out method requiring physicians to de-select unwanted procedures. The final design pre-selected a handful of tests based upon expert recommendations. Using the opt-out and recommendation designs, clinicians ordered three more tests on average than the opt-in version,” explains EHRIntellegince.

“Essentially we found that including default selections, either with the opt-out method or the recommended method, increased the quality of lab tests the clinicians ordered. That is, clinicians ordered more tests recommended by pediatric experts with these methods,” Shaffer said. “However, there were costs associated with using these approaches. Use of the opt-out method costs about $71 more per patient. Using a set of recommended defaults keeps costs down but requires consensus about which tests to set as defaults.”

“Ordering numerous lab tests can result in unnecessary testing and can cause physical discomfort and financial stress to patients,” said Shaffer in a University of Missouri Press Release. “We found that by changing the way electronic order set lists were designed, we could significantly alter both the number and quality of lab tests ordered by clinicians.”

“Problems with these software systems often occur because IT experts design the software with minimal input from the people who use it. IT experts and medical professionals should work together to design these systems to reach optimal performance, which results in the best care for patients. A wide variety of methods exist that could improve medical lab test ordering software and would ensure that only the most appropriate, relevant lab tests for patients are ordered while saving money in the long run.”

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