Reducing Unnecessary Testing in Uncomplicated Skin and Soft Tissue Infections: A Quality Improvement Approach


Skin and soft tissue infections are common pediatric diagnoses with substantial costs. Recent studies suggest blood cultures are not useful in management of uncomplicated skin and soft tissue infections (uSSTIs). Complete blood cell count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and C-reactive protein are also of questionable value. We aimed to decrease these tests by 25% for patients with uSSTIs admitted to the pediatric hospital medicine service within 3 months.


An interdisciplinary team led a quality improvement (QI) project. Baseline assessment included review of the literature and 12 months of medical records. Key stakeholders identified drivers that informed the creation of an electronic order set and development of a pediatric hospital medicine–emergency department collaborative QI project. The primary outcome measure was mean number of tests per patient encounter. Balancing measures included unplanned readmissions and missed diagnoses.


Our baseline-year rate was 3.4 tests per patient encounter (573 tests and 169 patient encounters). During the intervention year, the rate decreased by 35% to 2.2 tests per patient encounter (286 tests and 130 patient encounters) and was sustained for 14 months postintervention. There were no unplanned readmissions or missed diagnoses for the study period. Order set adherence was 80% (83 out of 104) during the intervention period and sustained at 87% postintervention.


Our interdisciplinary team achieved our aim, reducing unnecessary laboratory testing in patients with an uSSTI without patient harm. Awareness of local culture, creation of an order set, defining appropriate patient selection and testing indications, and implementation of a collaborative QI project helped us achieve our aim.

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