Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reporting abnormal test results to patients


There's an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine titled, "Frequency of Failure to Inform Patients of Clinically Significant Outpatient Test Results." Lead author Lawrence P. Casalino, MD, PhD is from the Department of Public Health, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. In this study, failures to inform patients of clinically significant abnormal test results or to document that they have been informed appear to be relatively common, occurring in 1 of every 14 tests.

Here's what was most interesting to me: Use of a "partial electronic medical record" (paper-based progress notes and electronic test results or vice versa) was associated with higher failure rates compared with not having an electronic medical record (odds ratio, 1.92; P = .03) or with having an electronic medical record that included both progress notes and test results (odds ratio, 2.37; P = .007).

Was this study flawed? After all, they used medical students to perform chart reviews. Did the researchers make a mistake when they collected or analyzed the data? Is it possible that physicians have become too dependent on the use of electronic health record (EHR)?

You can view the entire article here.

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