Effectiveness of interventions to reduce ordering of thyroid function tests: a systematic review

Zhivko Zhelev, Rebecca Abbott, Morwenna Rogers, Simon Fleming, Anthea Patterson, William Trevor Hamilton, Janet Heaton, Jo Thompson Coon, Bijay Vaidya, Christopher Hyde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Eligibility criteria for selecting studies We included studies evaluating the effectiveness of behaviour change interventions aiming to reduce ordering of thyroid function tests. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs), non-randomised controlled studies and before and after studies were included. There were no language restrictions.

Study appraisal and synthesis methods 2 reviewers independently screened all records identified by the electronic searches and reviewed the full text of any deemed potentially relevant. Study details were extracted from the included papers and their methodological quality assessed independently using a validated tool. Disagreements were resolved through discussion and arbitration by a third reviewer. Meta-analysis was not used.

Results 27 studies (28 papers) were included. They evaluated a range of interventions including guidelines/protocols, changes to funding policy, education, decision aids, reminders and audit/feedback; often intervention types were combined. The most common outcome measured was the rate of test ordering, but the effect on appropriateness, test ordering patterns and cost were also measured. 4 studies were RCTs. The majority of the studies were of poor or moderate methodological quality. The interventions were variable and poorly reported. Only 4 studies reported unsuccessful interventions but there was no clear pattern to link effect and intervention type or other characteristics.

Conclusions The results suggest that behaviour change interventions are effective particularly in reducing the volume of thyroid function tests. However, due to the poor methodological quality and reporting of the studies, the likely presence of publication bias and the questionable relevance of some interventions to current day practice, we are unable to draw strong conclusions or recommend the implementation of specific intervention types. Further research is thus justified.

Trial registration number CRD42014006192.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2016


  • thyroid function tests
  • test ordering
  • behaviour changing interventions
  • systematic review
  • medical tests


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