Missed test results cause patient harm

Missed test results are a substantial problem that impact patient safety, according to a study in BMJ Quality and Safety. 

For the study, researchers examined 20 years worth of hospital data from twelve studies.  Key findings:

  • 61% of inpatient and 75% of ED patient test results were not followed up after discharge
  • The missed results led to harm for some patients, including missed cancer and infectious disease diagnosis
  • No significant difference was found between hospitals using electronic medical records, paper records, or a combination of both

The authors found that a common link in the missed test results was a breakdown in the communication process, including documentation of actions, between clinical units and the laboratories.  The authors conclude that more research is needed and that systems for obtaining lab results need to be examined. 

(Sources: The Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, February 17, 2011; BMJ Quality and Safety, http://qualitysafety.bmj.com, February 7, 2011)