OBJECTIVE: To compare the number of preoperative tests ordered for elective ambulatory surgery patients during the 2 years before and the 2 years after the establishment of new hospital testing guidelines.
MEASUREMENTS: The patterns of preoperative testing by surgeons and a medical consultant during the 2 years before and the 2 years after the establishment of new guidelines at one orthopedic hospital were reviewed. All tests ordered preoperatively were determined by review of medical records. Preoperative medical histories, physical examinations, and comorbidities were obtained according to a protocol by the medical consultant (author). Perioperative complications were determined by review of intraoperative and postoperative events, which also were recorded according to a protocol.
MAIN RESULTS: A total of 640 patients were enrolled, 361 before and 279 after the new guidelines. The mean number of tests decreased from 8.0 before to 5.6 after the new guidelines (p=.0001) and the percentage decrease for individual tests varied from 23% to 44%. Except for patients with more comorbidity and patients receiving general anesthesia, there were decreases across all patient groups. In multivariate analyses only time of surgery (before or after new guidelines), age, and type of surgery remained statistically significant (p=.0001 for all comparisons). Despite decreases in surgeons’ ordering of tests, the medical consultant did not order more tests after the new guidelines (p=.60) The majority of patients had no untoward events intraoperatively and postoperatively throughout the study period, with only 6% overall requiring admission to the hospital after surgery, mainly for reasons not related to abnormal tests. Savings from charges totaled $34,000 for the patients in the study.
CONCLUSIONS: Although there was variable compliance among physicians, new hospital guidelines were effective in reducing preoperative testing and did not result in increases in untoward perioperative events or in test ordering by the medical consultant.
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