Follow up lacking on a majority of hospital tests

Follows up on patient tests is often poor, according to a review of international studies, an article published in BMJ Quality and Safety reports. Up to 61 percent of inpatient test results and 75 percent of tests on ER patients saw no follow up after discharge, the researchers found.

Poor or inadequate care of patients after discharge can have serious implications for patients, among them missed or delayed diagnoses, or even death. For hospitals, when a patient's transition to outpatient care features poor test follow-up, a readmission down the road is possible. Yet some doctors don't agree that early diagnosis leads to prevention.

The authors based their conclusions on a review of journal articles published between 1990 and 2010 that are available on research databases. The test results that faced the highest chance that no one would follow up were critical test results and those for patients moving between settings, such as from inpatient to outpatient or to general practice.

"Failure to follow up test results for hospital patients is a substantial problem," the authors write.

The failure rate for test follow up was high, regardless of whether paper-based systems or electronic records were used. Lead investigator Joanne Callen, an Associate Professor of the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said that follow-up failure rates likely were higher when EHRs were used because the technology made the problem more obvious and easier to measure, Onmedica reports.

To learn more:
- here's the BMJ Quality & Safety article
- read the Onmedica article

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