DOI: 10.1515/cclm-2023-1227 ISSN: 1434-6621

Blood over-testing: impact, ethical issues and mitigating actions

Federico Pennestrì, Rossella Tomaiuolo, Giuseppe Banfi, Alberto Dolci
  • Biochemistry (medical)
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • General Medicine


Plenty of studies demonstrate that hospital-acquired anemia (HAA) can increase transfusion rates, mortality, morbidity and cause unnecessary patient burden, including additional length of hospital stay, sleep disruption and venipuncture harms resulting from blood samples unlikely to change clinical management. Beyond patient costs, community costs should also be considered, such as laboratory time and resources waste, environmental impact, increasing pressure on labs and fewer tests available on time for patients who can benefit from them most. Blood over-testing does not support the principles of non-maleficence, justice and respect for patient autonomy, at the expense dubious beneficence. Reducing the number and frequency of orders is possible, to a certain extent, by adopting nudge strategies and raising awareness among prescribing doctors. However, reducing the orders may appear unsafe to doctors and patients. Therefore, reducing blood volume from each order is a better alternative, which is worth implementing through technological, purchasing and organizational arrangements, possibly combined according to need (smaller tubes, adequate analytic platforms, blind dilution, blood conservative devices, aggregating tests and laboratory units).

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