Healthcare expenses are increasing, as is the utilization of laboratory resources. Despite this, between 20% and 40% of requested tests are deemed inappropriate. Improper use of laboratory resources leads to unwanted consequences such as hospital-acquired anemia, infections, increased costs, staff workload and patient stress and discomfort. The most unfavorable consequences result from unnecessary follow-up tests and treatments (overuse) and missed or delayed diagnoses (underuse). In this context, several interventions have been carried out to improve the appropriateness of laboratory testing. To date, there have been few published assessments of interventions specific to the intensive care unit. We reviewed the literature for interventions implemented in the ICU to improve the appropriateness of laboratory testing. We searched literature from 2008 to 2023 in PubMed, Embase, Scopus, and Google Scholar databases between April and June 2023. Five intervention categories were identified: education and guidance (E&G), audit and feedback, gatekeeping, computerized physician order entry (including reshaping of ordering panels), and multifaceted interventions (MFI). We included a sixth category exploring the potential role of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML)-based assisting tools in such interventions. E&G-based interventions and MFI are the most frequently used approaches. MFI is the most effective type of intervention, and shows the strongest persistence of effect over time. AI/ML-based tools may offer valuable assistance to the improvement of appropriate laboratory testing in the near future. Patient safety outcomes are not impaired by interventions to reduce inappropriate testing. The literature focuses mainly on reducing overuse of laboratory tests, with only one intervention mentioning underuse. We highlight an overall poor quality of methodological design and reporting and argue for standardization of intervention methods. Collaboration between clinicians and laboratory staff is key to improve appropriate laboratory utilization. This article offers practical guidance for optimizing the effectiveness of an intervention protocol designed to limit inappropriate use of laboratory resources.
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