We examined the effect of an educational memorandum incorporating simple guidelines for thyroid function testing on test utilization in a primary care health maintenance organization practice. We then compared the effectiveness of a reminder alone or combined with individual test ordering feedback at maintaining an effect. The subjects were 17 physicians and 13 physician assistants and nurse practitioners separated into two similar study groups with little clinical interaction. Both groups responded to the education with increased compliance (from 36% to >67%) with the recommended testing strategy. The group subsequently receiving only a reminder showed a further increase in compliance from 68% to 81% at 6 months and 79% at 12 months. The group receiving a reminder and feedback showed no subsequent change in testing pattern (65% compliance before the reminder-feedback and 64% at both subsequent measurements). The effect of the educational intervention was greater on nurse practitioners and physician assistants than physicians (absolute increase in compliance, 63% vs 28%). We conclude that education can be an effective tool for modifying clinician testing patterns to conform to simple clinical guidelines. Further study of the effect of education and other strategies on compliance with more complex guidelines is needed.
(Arch Intern Med. 1991;151:2163-2166)