Doctors Order Fewer Lab Tests When Cost Data Are Displayed in EHRs

Displaying cost data for laboratory tests in electronic health record systems leads doctors to order fewer and less expensive tests, according to a new study by Atrius Health, Healthcare IT News reports.

Details of Study

The study -- which was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine -- included 215 primary care doctors at Atrius Health.

Some participants received real-time data on the cost of 27 types of lab tests when placing electronic orders, while other physicians did not receive cost data.

Thomas Sequist, co-author of the study and director of research at Atrius Health, said the goal of the project was to educate doctors on the cost of such tests.


Researchers found that the ordering rate for five of the 27 tests significantly decreased when cost data were presented to doctors.

Sequist noted that there were decreases in the number of orders for all 27 lab tests but that not all of those decreases were statistically significant.

The doctors who received cost data through their EHR systems:

  • Saved $107 per 1,000 visits per month; and
  • Decreased orders by up to 5.6 lab tests per 1,000 visits per month.

Sequist said that providing cost data through EHRs can:

  • Promote cost transparency;
  • Educate physicians; and
  • Reduce unnecessary lab tests (McCann, Healthcare IT News, 11/22).

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