Studies have shown unwarranted variation in test ordering among GP practices and regions, which may lead to patient harm and increased health care costs. There is currently no robust evidence base to inform guidelines on monitoring long-term conditions.
To map the extent and nature of research that provides evidence on the use of laboratory tests to monitor long-term conditions in primary care, and to identify gaps in existing research.
We performed a scoping review-a relatively new approach for mapping research evidence across broad topics-using data abstraction forms and charting data according to a scoping framework. We searched CINAHL, EMBASE and MEDLINE to April 2019. We included studies that aimed to optimize the use of laboratory tests and determine costs, patient harm or variation related to testing in a primary care population with long-term conditions.
Ninety-four studies were included. Forty percent aimed to describe variation in test ordering and 36% to investigate test performance. Renal function tests (35%), HbA1c (23%) and lipids (17%) were the most studied laboratory tests. Most studies applied a cohort design using routinely collected health care data (49%). We found gaps in research on strategies to optimize test use to improve patient outcomes, optimal testing intervals and patient harms caused by over-testing.
Future research needs to address these gaps in evidence. High-level evidence is missing, i.e. randomized controlled trials comparing one monitoring strategy to another or quasi-experimental designs such as interrupted time series analysis if trials are not feasible.

© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press.