Secondary Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Practice Pattern Variation in Test Ordering for Low-Acuity Pediatric Emergency Department Patients

Doctor, Kaynan, MD*†; Breslin, Kristen, MD, MPH‡§; Chamberlain, James M., MD‡§; Berkowitz, Deena, MD, MPH‡§

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001637
Original Article: PDF Only

Objectives Rising costs in healthcare have focused attention on interventions to optimize efficiency of patient care, including decreasing unnecessary diagnostic testing. The primary objective of this study was to determine the variability of laboratory and radiology testing among licensed independent providers (LIPs) with different training backgrounds treating low-acuity patients in a pediatric emergency department (PED).

Methods We performed a retrospective review of the electronic health records of all encounters with patients 21 years or younger, triaged as low-acuity, visiting 2 urban, academic PEDs from January 2012 to December 2013. We calculated frequency of orders for specific tests, including complete blood counts, aerobic blood cultures, urine cultures, and chest radiographs. Bivariable analyses were used to measure associations of test ordering between these LIP dyad groups: physician versus nurse practitioner (NP); physicians with pediatric emergency medicine fellowship training (PEM) versus physicians without PEM training and physicians with at least 5 years since residency graduation versus less than 5 years. We used multivariable logistic regression to adjust for potential confounders, including ED location, trainee co-management, and patient characteristics. We also performed sensitivity analyses by location.

Results There were 148,570 total encounters treated by 12 NPs and 144 physicians, of whom 60 were PEM physicians. Seventy-three physicians had 5 or more years of experience. Testing rates per patient encounter ranged from 0% to 40% for individual providers. In bivariable analyses, testing was more likely when the LIP was a physician (odds ratio [OR] = 1.2, 95% confidence interval = 1.1–1.2) or PEM trained (OR = 1.3, 1.2–1.3). In multivariable analyses, testing was more likely for encounters with PEM providers (adjusted OR [AdjOR] = 1.2, 1.1–1.3). A sensitivity analysis on a subset of encounters seen exclusively at our PED-based urgent care revealed that testing was also more likely for encounters seen by PEM physicians (AdjOR = 1.5, 1.4–1.7) and with NPs (AdjOR = 1.2, 1.1–1.4) compared with physicians.

Conclusions Our study identified substantial variation in test ordering patterns for LIPs treating low-acuity patients. There were significant differences in ordering practices between providers from different training backgrounds, most significantly when comparing PEM with non-PEM providers. Further research should examine interventions to standardize practice across disciplines.

From *Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, DE;

Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA;

Children's National Health Systems; and

§George Washington University, Washington, DC.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

These results were presented at the American Federation for Medical Research Eastern Regional Meeting, Washington, DC, April 16, 2015, where the abstract was awarded the Henry Christian Award and best poster award. The results were also presented at the Children's National Health System/George Washington University Annual Research Week, Washington, DC, April 2015, at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in San Diego, CA, April 26, 2015, the Society for Pediatric Urgent Care Annual Conference in Cincinnati, OH, September 15, 2015, and also at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition, Washington, DC, October 23, 2015.

Reprints: Kaynan Doctor, MD, Division of Emergency Medicine, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, 1600 Rockland Rd, Wilmington, Delaware, 19803 (e-mail:

Copyright © 2019 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.