Failure to follow-up medical test results poses a great risk to patient safety and quality of care. A new stakeholder forum bringing together health consumers, clinicians and policy organisations aims to improve the situation.
By Mary Dahm
Pathology and medical imaging test results provide important diagnostic information that help patients and clinicians to treat and manage disease. In hospitals, test results often arrive after patients have gone home, which means there is a risk that these results do not get seen and acted upon. To ensure patient safety, these test results need adequate and timely follow-up. However, several factors can lead to failure to follow-up, including unclear lines of responsibility, and poorly integrated systems for the communication and coordination of information when patients move from one health care provider to another.
A scientific paper, recently published in Diagnosis, depicts how consumers, clinicians and other stakeholders were brought together in a forum to identify the challenges around and potential solutions for improving test result communication, management and follow-up. The stakeholder forum launched a five-year research collaboration between researchers at Macquarie University Sydney, NSW Heath Pathology, the Australian Commission in Safety and Quality in Health Care and Health Consumer NSW funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHRMC), Australia.
Patient engagement is crucial for translating research into practice
All stakeholders agreed that systemic changes are necessary to reduce patient safety risks. Improvements to current test result management processes could include systems capable of clarifying the multiple lines of shared responsibility for reporting and following up test result alongside the patient’s pathway through the health system. The forum also highlighted the major concerns among stakeholders. Clinicians and laboratory professionals highlighted the need for streamlined standards for reporting results including when, how and to whom critical results should be communicated. Consumers reported ongoing concerns about their limited role in test result management.
“Health consumers have not traditionally been involved in research on test results management. We believe the findings from our forum emphasise the important contribution that health consumers can make to ensure effective test result management. Patient engagement provides unique perspectives and is paramount in the translation of research into practice” said Dr Mary Dahm, Research Fellow at Macquarie University and lead author of the study.
Research engagement with diverse stakeholders provided the research team with valuable input that contributed to the development of robust research aims and methods driving research on safer and more effective test-result management systems. Ensuring patient involvement and adopting consumer-driven approaches across all aspects of the project sets a future standard for all health services research; moving beyond tokenism to meaningfully enhance the contribution of consumers.
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Maria R. Dahm, Andrew Georgiou, Robert Herkes, Anthony Brown, Julie Li, Robert Lindeman, Andrea R. Horvath, Graham Jones, Michael Legg, Ling Li, David Greenfield, Johanna I. Westbrook: Patient groups, clinicians and healthcare professionals agree – all test results need to be seen, understood and followed up, 17.10.2018.