Alerting healthcare providers about abnormal test results through electronic health records (EHRs) may not always lead to timely follow-up of patients, researchers report in the latest issue of BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making.
The researchers conducted a study consisting of six focus groups (with six to eight members) at two large Veterans Affairs facilities. Participants included full-time primary care providers, along with personnel representing diagnostic (radiology, laboratory) and information technology services.
The participants were asked to discuss barriers and share ideas for improving timely management and follow-up of abnormal test result notifications.
In their responses, providers reported obtaining alerts with information not relevant to the abnormal test results--many of which were considered unnecessary. Some providers also reported lacking experience in use of various EHR features that would help them to manage those alerts more efficiently.
To enhance EHR alerts, ideas were suggested by the focus groups that included enhancing displays and tracking processes for critical alerts in the EHRs, redesigning clinical workflows, and improving policies and procedures for test result notification.