UNLABELLED: Between 1998 and 2000 we evaluated the office-based laboratory activities of general practitioners. The aim was to clarify whether there is a medical and economic benefit of these activities.
METHODS: The study was performed in four parts: I. A cross-sectional study with a random sample of general practitioners of the German and French speaking part of Switzerland. II. A prospective evaluation of the office-based laboratory activities of 56 GP's. III. A cross-sectional study of the preference of 837 patients in 52 of GP's offices. IV. A consensus panel with nine experts using the RAND method.
RESULTS: 1999 there were 55.4 Million laboratory tests ordered by GP's (excl. pediaters) of which 78.9% were analysed in the office-based laboratory. The probability of a second visit is reduced by 60%, if all of the tests could be performed in the office-based laboratory. 85% of the patients appreciate the possibility to discuss the test results within the same consulation. In the consensus panel, 43 tests were proposed of which only bicarbonate, chloride and urea were assessed as not useful for the office based laboratory.
CONCLUSION: The office-based laboratory is a well embodied institution in Switzerland. It's predominant advantage is the possibility of point of care testing. It allows a quick management of the patient and avoids unnecessary second consultations.