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The Continuing Problem of Missed Test Results in an Integrated Health System with an Advanced Electronic Medical Record

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Abstract:

Background:Missed results can cause needless treatment delays. However, there is little data about the magnitude of this problem and the systems that clinics use to manage test results.

Methods: Surveys about potential problems related to test results management were developed and administered to clinical staff in a regional Veterans Administration (VA) health care network. The provider survey, conducted four times between May 2005 and October 2006, sampling VA staff physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and internal medicine trainees, asked questions about the frequency of missed results and diagnosis or treatment delays seen in the antecedent two weeks in their clinics, or if a trainee, the antecedent month.

Results: Clinical staff survey response rate was 39% (143 of 370), with 40% using standard operating procedures to manage test results. Forty-four percent routinely reported all results to patients. The provider survey response rate was 50% (441 of 884) overall, with responses often (37% overall; range 29% to 46%) indicating they had seen patients with diagnosis or treatment delays attributed to a missed result; 15% reported two or more such encounters.

Discussion: Even in an integrated health system with an advanced electronic medical record, missed test results and associated diagnosis or treatment delays are common. Additional study and measures of missed results and associated treatment delays are needed.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2007

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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