Appropriateness of tumor marker request: a case of study
Appropriateness is crucial to provide efficient and high-quality health services at affordable costs. Laboratory medicine is a sector of special interest for the investigation of inappropriateness, due to the high rate of technological innovation and its pivotal role in many diseases and clinical settings. Some subjective aspects related to either the patient or physician seem to have a major role on inappropriateness rates. Given the psychological impact of cancer on both patients and physicians, tumor markers represent a case of study for appropriateness. The assessment of inappropriateness of laboratory tests has been focused mainly on ordering patterns. Appropriateness can barely be appraised by matching the requested test with the clinical problem because clinical information on the test requisition form is usually inadequate. Monitoring inappropriateness through individual clinical information may be feasible in inpatient (clinical data are available), while an indirect approach should be used for outpatients. To estimate inappropriateness in outpatients our group developed innovative models based on comparison between the actually ordered and expected requests of tumor marker, calculated according to recommendations of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) applied to figures of cancer prevalence. The implementation of the model at national scale in Italy led to recognize a very high rate of overordering of tumor markers. The model was further focused by a dedicated algorithm to be adapted to different clinical conditions or organizational settings by applying performance indicators to cohort-wide structured information in electronic health records (EHRs). With this novel approach, we showed that inappropriateness is multifaceted even within the specific category of tumour markers. The model was effective in identifying both over- and underordering. Implementation of evidence based information and monitoring their impact on the clinical practice are parts of the same, multistage, process aimed at the progressive improvement of health care.