AIM--To examine a model for the evaluation of appropriateness of testing in an emergency biochemistry laboratory. METHODS--A model was devised in which incoming emergency test requests were categorised as appropriate or inappropriate. Explicit criteria were used to define eight minor categories, which were chosen to reflect accurately current working practice within the hospital and laboratory. Five junior medical staff each undertook a prospective 24 hour assessment, during which time all incoming requests were monitored and categorised according to these criteria. Concordance between monitors was evaluated before and during assessments. RESULTS--Of 509 requests, 384 (75%) were appropriate and 125 (25%) were inappropriate according to the criteria used to define categories. Inappropriate requests fell into three main groups: preoperative samples (43.2% (54/125) of all inappropriate requests), missed routine samples (33.6% (42/125)) and accelerated (priority) analyses (16% (20/125)). Various other reasons accounted for the remaining 7.2% (9/125). CONCLUSION--This model may be used to obtain valid information about current clinical and laboratory practice. Strategies to reduce the number of inappropriate requests have been identified in order to reserve the emergency service for situations of true need.
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