Physicians' perceptions of laboratory costs in the intensive care unit. Hamilton Regional Critical Care Group.
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Our objective was to determine the extent to which Intensive Care Unit (ICU) physicians are aware of charges for commonly used blood tests. We also wished to ascertain ICU physicians' perception of their motivation for, and appropriateness of, test ordering. Attending physicians and Internal Medicine residents in four university-affiliated ICUs in Hamilton were surveyed using a self-administered questionnaire. The response rate for the questionnaire was 91%. Physicians varied widely in their estimates of charges for ten laboratory tests. On average, residents tended to underestimate charges, while attending physicians sometimes underestimated, and sometimes overestimated. When all ten tests were considered, the mean estimates of the housestaff were lower than the ICU attending physicians (p < 0.001). Overall, attending estimates were 29.5% higher. Over 85% of physicians felt that too many blood tests were being performed. Physicians perceived that they pay insufficient attention to the risk of anemia and to issue of cost. Their feeling that test ordering in the ICU is excessive suggests that they may be open to modifying their practice. Given the large proportion of hospital resources allocated to the intensive care unit, interventions to decrease test ordering are warranted.
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