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What is Laboratory Utilization Management (UM)?

UM is also referred to as resource utilization or lab stewardship. UM is the discipline whereby clinicians, laboratory professionals, and administrators work together to ensure that laboratory tests and results provide real clinical benefit to patients while ensuring that laboratory testing is both cost-effective and appropriately used. In short, UM is about doing the right test, at the right time, for the right patient, and at the right cost.
Health care costs have been rising sharply over the past 2-3 decades in the United States. In fact, the US spends more on health care than other industrialized nations that have a similar quality of life (see graph). In order to control spending, health care professionals must strive to be more efficient and effective.
The goal of UM is to maintain or improve the quality of care without increasing the cost of laboratory testing. As will be discussed, some laboratory tests are ordered too frequently or laboratory tests that are considered obsolete continue to be ordered. There are also more esoteric (and expensive) laboratory tests than at any other time in history. As the field of laboratory medicine grows we must proactively work to make sure that laboratory testing is contributing to positive health outcomes rather than just driving up budgets.