Half of test results go unread upon patient discharge

Physicians never checked the results of nearly half of the medical tests ordered the day of a patient's discharge, according to a recent study of an Australian hospital, published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Electronic health records could be a major tool in alleviating the problem by reminding doctors to check test results, lead researcher Enrico Coiera, director of the Center for Health Informatics at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at the University of New South Wales, said in the research announcement.

Tests on the day of discharge represented 7 percent of tests ordered during a hospital stay, making up 47 percent of unread tests at the time of discharge and 41 percent of unread tests two months after discharge, according to an article in U.S. News HealthDay

The problem is "huge" in the U.S., Gordon Schiff, associate director of the Brigham Center for Patient Safety Research and Practice in Boston, told HealthDay. EHRs can track test results and send doctors an alert if results are not reviewed, in some cases, sending an additional alert to the patient's primary-care physician, he said.

A study published last month in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that a majority of hospitals studied failed to implement recommended discharge and follow-up strategies, including procedures to follow up on test results after a patient is discharged. The study looked at possible factors in hospital readmissions within 30 days for patients with heart failure and acute myocardial infarction.

To learn more:
- see the Archives of Internal Medicine research letter
- read the HealthDay article
- check out the Journal of the American College of Cardiology study