Laboratory systems, information technology  

iSOFT software reduces unnecessary pathology tests

2 October 2006

Manchester, UK. A new software application from iSOFT has the potential to save UK hospitals around £100,000 a year by preventing unnecessary blood tests.

Jointly developed with the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust (SWBH), Request Intervention (RI) has saved the Trust £25,000 on pathology tests alone by preventing 22,000 unnecessary tests in the past year.

RI applies user-defined rules to determine whether results of previous tests are still valid, which avoids retesting and duplication.

Alan Wall, one of the trust’s clinical biochemists, said: “A diabetic’s HbA1c level can be valid for between 90 and 120 days so measuring again within that time period is pointless and wasteful for many patients.” He says however, that the intervention rules are flexible enough to exclude certain patients such as those from antenatal clinics where repeat testing could be appropriate.

Wall says the introduction of RI demands a consultative approach, with doctors and GPs being encouraged to discuss with pathology the reasons for tests being rejected. “This helps educate clinical staff,” he said. “Long-term it will make doctors think and prevent them from taking blood needlessly, which saves time and money but also prevents patients being subjected to unnecessary pain and discomfort.”

RI has had a major impact in helping reverse a growing trend. “The number of test requests had been rising steadily for several years along with costs, but we are now seeing a measurable decline in tests where intervention rules apply,” Wall said.

“We have identified direct savings of £25,000 already, but the real figure is far greater once you add the clinical time spent taking blood samples and processing requests.”

SWBH conducts 4.5 million pathology tests a year at two laboratories and has set intervention rules against a third of all the different tests it provides. But it has also set exclusions to prevent RI blocking requests from specialities such as paediatrics, the trust’s liver ward and the West Midlands poisons unit.

RI is now available to the 150 NHS trusts in the UK using iSOFT’s pathology systems, representing 65% of the UK market.

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