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Exploring the discussion of blood tests in primary care: an observational study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
DateAccepted/In press - 10 Sep 2019


Awareness about the importance of shared decision-making (SDM) is widespread, however little research has focused on discussions surrounding investigations, despite increasing laboratory testing in primary care.

To explore the discussion of blood tests in routine primary care consultations.

Design and Setting
Secondary analysis of a sample of 50 video-recorded routine primary care consultations from 22 GPs across 12 practices, plus linked survey and records data, from the One in a Million archive.

A coding scheme was developed using qualitative content analysis to explore discussion of blood tests in transcripts of recorded consultations. Codes focused on instigating testing, the extent of SDM, and how results were explained. Survey data were used to compare patients’ pre-visit expectations with consultation content. Medical records were reviewed to compare tests discussed with those ordered.

In 36/50 consultations which discussed ordering blood tests, 31% of patients hinted they wanted a blood test, however none explicitly asked. Only 11% were offered alternative options. In 81% of cases the GP gave some explanation of the indication, but only 17% explained limitations of testing. Only 32% of patients were informed about all blood tests ordered. Of 23/50 consultations in which results were conveyed, the GP gave no explanation of the results in 26% of cases. 57% of patients were only informed of an 'assessment' (e.g. ‘normal’), rather than the actual result.

A lack of information-giving and SDM exists surrounding ordering tests and conveying results. Promoting SDM could reduce unnecessary testing and improve patient-centred care.

    Research areas

  • general practice, qualitative research, decision making



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