An occult finding in heparin drip order set

Lucia Ponor, Waseem Khaliq, Rajanigandhi Hanumanthu, Daniel Kim, Scott Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: In 1998, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) noted that the American healthcare system had many problems. A major concern was the pervasiveness of medical errors. Electronic medical records (EMR) were introduced for myriad of reasons, one being to reduce these errors. Within the EMR, order sets have been shown to reduce variation in clinical practice and improve the quality of care. However, the lack of standardization in these sets enables peculiar orders, such as fecal occult blood test (FOBT) in the heparin drip order set at our hospital, to be surprisingly included. Our study was conducted to evaluate the consequences associated with having FOBT in this order set.

METHODS: A retrospective study of 898 adult hospitalized patients over a 6-month period, who had a heparin drip ordered at a single academic center, was conducted. The main focus of our study was the 130 patients for whom the FOBT was sent.

RESULTS: Fifteen percent (n=130) of patients started on IV heparin had FOBT sent, of which 33 (25%) came back positive. Approximately one-third (36%) of the positive results were documented by a provider, either in a progress note or discharge summary. In eight instances of a positive FOBT (24%), the heparin drip was stopped. For 10 patients with a positive test (30%), gastroenterology was consulted, and 4 (12%) patients had inpatient endoscopy. Five patients with positive FOBT died while in the hospital (15%) as compared to seven patients (7%) in the negative FOBT group, p<0.05.

CONCLUSIONS: Most patients started on heparin did not have FOBT tested, and the results changed management infrequently, even when positive. The regular review of all order sets is imperative to ensure that they remain evidenced-based and sensible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-216
Number of pages5
JournalHospital Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • IV heparin drip
  • Order sets
  • electronic medical records
  • fecal occult blood test
  • hospitalized patients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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