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Assessing the "True Cost" of Clinical Lab Testing

Posted Mar 05 2010 12:00am

Dr. Brian Jackson has raised a very interesting discussion topic, the "true cost" of clinical lab testing (see: A RUP Laboratories Launches Three Tools to Promote Cost-Effective Laboratory Testing ). This goes to the very heart of the cost-effectiveness of lab testing. Below is an excerpt from the article which is self-explanatory:

According to Brian Jackson, MD, MS, ARUP’s medical director of medical informatics, the true cost of a diagnostic test includes many factors beyond the direct price of performing the test. For example, an apparently inexpensive test, ordered in the wrong clinical setting or at the wrong time, can sometimes lead to expensive follow-up testing and even therapy. “On the other hand, an apparently expensive test might turn out to be cost-saving if it averts costly procedures and/or therapy,” added Jackson. To demonstrate the power of this concept, ARUP has created three calculators for use by the general public. The consequences of improper lab utilization in any one of these areas can have a dramatic impact on patient well-being. They address testing concerns in three important areas:

According to Jackson, the calculators address three very different ways in which laboratory testing can impact overall health care costs. “Chlamydia trachomatis testing can be cost-saving, and ordering a more expensive but more sensitive test can be even more cost-saving by reducing hospitalization, disease transmission, and infertility workups. Prostate cancer screening for men over 75 years of age, on the other hand, is unlikely to be cost-saving under any set of assumptions, and the calculator estimates the downstream costs due to biopsies that result from ordering this initially very inexpensive test. Finally, KRAS is an example of a relatively expensive test, which, when used appropriately, can be dramatically cost-saving due to reduction in chemotherapy use.”

I really can't add any comment of value to what has been already stated in this excerpt about the three ARUP calculators. They are very sophisticated and built on the basis of solid research information. Try them to better understand the points that Brian is making above. The effort will be well worth your time.

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