Ask HRC: Ambulatory Care: Frequency of Reviewing Test Results

April 10, 2013 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance


A member from an ambulatory care facility recently asked for guidance on how frequently the practice should review regular or routine test results that are returned. Specifically, the member asked whether reviewing such routine tests on a weekly basis is sufficient, acknowledging that their policy states that reviewing critical or abnormal results occurs more frequently.

Physician practices and other healthcare organizations should keep in mind that there are two separate and unique functions related to tracking test results. The first function is the initial review of test results to determine which ones are normal and which ones are abnormal. An important consideration is that sometimes a “normal” test result from the lab can be considered “abnormal” to the ordering physician based on the patient's past values and/or the current clinical condition of the patient. ECRI Institute is not aware of a set published time standard in place other than standards stating that the system MUST be documented and consistent; however, ECRI Institute recommends that health centers impose a daily or 24 to 48 hour test result review timeframe to avoid any issues with a possible delay in diagnosis or treatment. This policy should also include guidance on handling situations in which the ordering provider...

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