Improving Timely Follow-Up of Diagnostic Test Results

February 13, 2013 | Strategic Insights for Health System


Failure to timely inform patients of abnormal test results after they have left the hospital can lead to significant complications for the patients and potential liability for providers, according to the author of a commentary from the February 2013 edition of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) online case study review, WebM&M. In the spotlight case, a 21-year-old woman presented to the emergency department (ED) with heavy vaginal bleeding. She was discharged after receiving a blood transfusion and an injection of hormones to stop the bleeding. A day later, her laboratory tests returned with a positive result for chlamydia, but a nurse was unable to reach anyone at the phone number provided in the patient’s medical record. Although several more attempts to contact the patient by phone were made over the following days, she did not receive her test results until a letter reached her by mail 26 days after her initial presentation.

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