Assessing the cost-effectiveness of a routine versus an extensive laboratory work-up in the diagnosis of anaemia in Dutch general practice

Michelle M.A. Kip, Annemarie Schop, Karlijn Stouten, Soraya Dekker, Geert Jan Dinant, Hendrik Koffijberg, Patrick J.E. Bindels, Maarten J. IJzerman, Mark-David Levin, Ron Kusters (Corresponding Author)

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Background: Establishing the underlying cause of anemia in general practice is a diagnostic challenge. Currently, general practitioners (GPs) individually determine which laboratory tests to request (routine work-up) in order to diagnose the underlying cause. However, an extensive work-up (consisting of 14 tests) increases the proportion of patients correctly diagnosed. This study investigates the cost-effectiveness of this extensive work-up.

Methods: A decision-analytic model was developed, incorporating all societal costs from the moment a patient presents to a GP with symptoms suggestive of anemia (aged≥50 years), until the patient was (correctly) diagnosed and treated in primary care, or referred to (and diagnosed in) secondary care. Model inputs were derived from an online survey among GPs, expert estimates and published data. The primary outcome measure was expressed as incremental cost per additional patient diagnosed with the correct underlying cause of anemia in either work-up.

Results: The probability of GPs diagnosing the correct underlying cause increased from 49.6% (95%CI 44.8%-54.5%) in the routine work-up, to 56.0% (95%CI 51.2%-60.8%) in the extensive work-up, (i.e.+6.4% [95%CI -0.6%-13.1%]). Costs are expected to increase slightly from €842/patient (95%CI €704-€994) to €845/patient (95%CI €711-€994), i.e. +€3/patient (95%CI €-35-€40) in the extensive work-up, indicating incremental costs of €43 per additional patient correctly diagnosed.

Conclusions: The extensive laboratory work-up is more effective for diagnosing the underlying cause of anemia by GPs, at a minimal increase in costs. As accompanying benefits in terms of quality-of-life and reduced productivity losses could not be captured in this analysis, the extensive work-up is likely cost-effective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-638
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Clinical Biochemistry
Issue number6
Early online date1 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Anaemia
  • Laboratory work-up
  • Routine
  • Extensive
  • Effectiveness


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