By Lauren VanDenBoom

October 18, 2019

When selecting from the thousands of laboratory tests available, healthcare providers need the best support possible to choose appropriate testing that will give the most guidance for a patient’s care. Laboratory stewardship and utilization programs can reduce unnecessary and inappropriate testing, as well as significantly lower costs and improve patient satisfaction and safety.

Successful programs rely on interventions that educate and guide providers while eliminating waste. Guidelines by the National Committee for Lab Stewardship separate possible interventions into three categories based on strength: gentle, medium, or strong. Gentle are those that primarily educate, medium typically guide, and strong are direct measures to eliminate waste.

Here are some of the interventions the committee recommends:


  • Provide regular updates on lab capabilities, appropriate use of new diagnostic tests, testing algorithms and tests approaching obsolescence.
  • Deliver information in a variety of ways to suit varied learning styles and habits, such as posters, newsletters, presentations and video.


  • Use testing cascades, algorithms, and best practice recommendations to implement standardized workflow processes that guide providers toward the most appropriate testing for the patient and reduce the number of inappropriate test orders.
  • Use automatic alerts when testing may be unnecessarily duplicative.
  • Provide feedback to healthcare providers regarding their ordering patterns.

Eliminate Waste

  • Establish a laboratory formulary that provides a concise list of appropriate testing and does not include obsolete or antiquated tests.
  • Identify tests requiring a consultation before ordering, such as complex genetic tests.
  • Provide applicable collection instructions alongside test orders to ensure specimen integrity.

Enlisting the help of an experienced data partner can significantly shorten the amount of time needed to implement interventions, as well as increase their effectiveness. Products like hc1’s Test Utilization™ help transform laboratory data into actionable insights. Test Utilization provides a real-time dashboard of standardized and organized lab data from across the entire health system, including in-hospital, outpatient and reference lab data. With all of the data in an easy-to-use dashboard, identifying room for improvement in test utilization becomes simple.

The savings that can be realized by implementing an effective utilization program can more than makeup for the expense of putting the appropriate resources and team in place to do so. Estimates project that healthcare systems could reduce costs of up to $5 billion per year if they were just to eliminate redundant tests.

Learn more about establishing a laboratory utilization committee or request a demo of hc1 Test Utilization™.

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