Educational Intervention to Reduce Outpatient Inappropriate Echocardiograms: A Randomized Control Trial

This study sought to prospectively study the impact of an appropriate use criteria (AUC)-based educational intervention on outpatient transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) ordering by physicians-in-training.


AUC were developed in response to concerns about inappropriate utilization. It is unknown whether an educational intervention can reduce inappropriate outpatient TTE.


We conducted a randomized control trial in which physicians-in-training were randomized to an AUC-based educational intervention or a control group at an academic medical center in Boston, Massachusetts. The primary endpoints were the rates of inappropriate and appropriate TTE.


For the cardiology physicians-in-training, the proportion of inappropriate TTE was significantly lower in the intervention than in the control group (13% vs. 34%, p < 0.001). As a corollary, the proportion of appropriate TTE ordered by the intervention group was significantly higher than that of the control group (81% vs. 58%, p < 0.001). The odds of ordering an appropriate TTE in the cardiology intervention group was 2.7 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.5 to 5.1, p = 0.002) relative to the control group. The internal medicine physicians-in-training ordered a small number of TTE overall, and there was a trend toward significant odds of ordering an appropriate TTE in the intervention group relative to the control group (odds ratio [OR]: 8.1, 95% CI: 0.95 to 69.0, p = 0.055). Six clinical scenarios accounted for 75% of all inappropriate TTE, with the 3 most common inappropriate indications being routine surveillance (<1 year) of known cardiomyopathy without a change in clinical status, routine surveillance of known small pericardial effusion, and routine surveillance of ventricular function with known coronary artery disease and no change in clinical status.


In cardiology fellows with a high rate of ordering inappropriate TTE, an AUC-based educational and feedback intervention reduced the proportion of inappropriate outpatient TTE and increased the proportion of appropriate outpatient TTE. (Educational Intervention to Reduce Outpatient Inappropriate Transthoracic Echocardiograms; NCT01944202).


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Bhatia RS
Dudzinski DM
Malhotra R
Milford CE
Yoerger Sanborn DM
Picard MH
Weiner RB