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Lab Test Ordering: Choosing Wisely

by Medical Staff Office on July 29, 2014

As we increasingly focus on ways to provide safer, higher-quality care to patients, we are finding ways to reduce waste in healthcare resources. A Laboratory Utilization Committee has been gathering since February 2014 and is tasked with providing our clinicians with evidence-based recommendations for optimal clinical laboratory utilization. This work is being done in collaboration with Choosing Wisely®, a national initiative of the ABIM Foundation and with the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

Below you will find the first in a series of recommendations and guidelines from the committee regarding the RBC folate test. Expect periodic updates regarding changes to our lab test menu as we work toward our goal of developing an evidence-based formulary approach to lab test ordering. For more information or to recommend tests as good candidates for utilization review or elimination, please contact Sanford Robbins, MD, chief of pathology, at 443-481-4252 or srobbins@AAHS.org.

RBC Folate Test No Longer Indicated

The Lab Utilization Committee has identified RBC folate as a test that is no longer indicated. Based on studies carried out at Mayo Medical Laboratories, we believe there is sufficient equivalence between RBC and serum folate testing to support this decision. Effective immediately, all requests for RBC folate will be converted to an order for serum folate.

A 10-year retrospective study of RBC and serum folate testing, performed by Mayo Medical laboratories, concludes that there is no evidence to support routine ordering of RBC or serum folate, and that serum folate concentrations provide equivalent clinical information to RBC folate in the assessment and diagnosis of folate deficiency. The following is a quote from a Mayo Medical Laboratories’ “Hot topics in laboratory medicine”:

“True folate deficiency in the current era of FDA-mandated folic acid supplementation is exceedingly rare. There is no evidence to support routine ordering of RBC or serum folate, but serum folate concentrations provide equivalent clinical information to RBC folate in the assessment and diagnosis of folate deficiency. Based on these statistics, and because serum folate provides equivalent results to RBC folate in almost all clinical scenarios, routine ordering of RBC folate is no longer warranted. Furthermore, investigation of megaloblastic anemia should preferentially be initiated with vitamin B12 testing instead of folate due to the low incidence of modern folate deficiency. In the absence of B12 deficiency, it is more cost effective to simply supplement with folic acid rather than routinely test and monitor a patient’s folate status, similar to other nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin D.”

Please use the link shown below for additional information from the Mayo Hot Topics presentation given November, 2010.

The entire article can be found here.

This policy change was approved by a multidisciplinary committee of AAMC physicians that included representatives from hematology/oncology. Please direct any questions or comments to Suzanne Leshinskie, laboratory director, or Sanford Robbins, MD, Chief of Pathology.

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