Clinician-ordered peripheral blood smears have low reimbursement and variable clinical value: a three-institution study, with suggestions for operational efficiency

Amy K. Beckman, Valerie L. Ng, David L. Jaye, Manila Gaddh, Sarah J Williams, Sophia L Yohe, Lin Zhang, Michael A Linden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Peripheral blood smears are performed to evaluate a variety of hematologic and non-hematologic disorders. At the authors' institutions, clinician requests for pathologist-performed blood smear reviews have increased in recent years. Blood smears may contribute significantly to pathologists' workloads, yet their clinical value is variable, and professional reimbursement rates are low. This study aimed to identify clinical scenarios in which smear review is likely to provide value beyond automated laboratory testing. METHODS: Blood smear review practices at three institutions were examined, and the indications for and interpretations of clinician-initiated smears were reviewed to determine the percentage of smears with potential added clinical value. A smear review was classified as having added clinical value if the pathologist's interpretation included a morphologic abnormality that had the potential to impact patient management, and that could not be diagnosed by automated complete blood count with white blood cell differential or automated iron studies alone. RESULTS: Among 515 consecutive clinician-requested smears performed during the study timeframes, 23% yielded interpretations with potential added clinical value. When sorted by indication, 25, 19, and 13% of smear reviews requested for white blood cell abnormalities, red blood cell abnormalities, and platelet abnormalities, respectively, had findings with potential added clinical value. The proportion of smears with potential clinical value differed significantly across these three categories (p = 0.0375). CONCLUSIONS: Smear review ordering practices across three institutions resulted in a minority of smears with potential added clinical value. The likelihood of value varied according to the indication for which the smear was requested. Given this, efforts to improve the utilization and efficiency of smear review are worthwhile. Solutions are discussed, including engaging laboratory staff, educating clinicians, and modifying technology systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112
Number of pages1
JournalDiagnostic Pathology
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 17 2020

Keywords

  • Blood film
  • Peripheral smear
  • Test utilization
  • Utilization management

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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