Repeat haematinic requests in patients with previous normal results: the scale of the problem in elderly patients at a district general hospital

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Abstract

Repeating normal laboratory tests can waste resources. This study aimed to quantify unnecessary repeat haematinic tests taken from the elderly in a district general hospital. Haematinic tests (ferritin, B12, serum folate) from patients age ≥70 years were reviewed for repeat tests during an 8-week period. Questionnaires were given to doctors to establish when the considered repeating a ‘borderline low normal’ result to be clinically justifiable. 7.7% of all haematinic tests were repeat tests and of these, the majority (83%) was performed following a previously normal result. Thirteen of 24 doctors believed repeating a normal result at the bottom of the normal range (‘borderline low normal’) was justifiable. After excluding ‘borderline low normal’ results, 6.0% (at minimum) of repeat tests were done following a previous normal result and were unnecessary. This audit showed that there are a significant number of unnecessary repeat haematinic tests being performed.

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