Doctors failing to follow up test results

September 27, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—A systematic review by UNSW Medicine researchers has found up to 62 per cent of laboratory tests and up to 36 per cent of radiology reports were not being followed up by doctors, for patients attending GPs, clinics or hospital outpatient departments.

In Australia, their related research revealed almost 50 per cent of in one hospital study believed their colleagues had missed test results, resulting in delays in treatment, and over 20 per cent conceded missing results themselves.

They say potential options include laboratories releasing test results directly to patients to help them share responsibility for their own health.

Lead researcher, UNSW Medicine Associate Professor Joanne Callen and her colleagues at the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research found a "considerable" impact on patients, including missed critical diagnoses of diseases such as cancer and delays in seeking treatment for a range of conditions. The review revealed a great discrepancy in follow up: the best health practitioners missed only 6.8 per cent of lab test follow ups and 1.0 per cent of radiology results.

"Failure to follow-up for patients is a critical safety issue which requires urgent attention. Without knowledge of the size and effect of the problem, many clinicians may underestimate its extent and consequences," Associated Professor Callen says.

The review, published in the , examined 19 studies carried out in the United States, where most research is being undertaken. However, Associate Professor Callen says strong anecdotal evidence in Australia and the similarity of the mean the results suggest a similar level of risk. 

Australia currently has no laws or regulations to ensure results are followed up.

"In Australia, we need to consider every option, including regulation. Given the huge and rising costs of medical testing and the consequences of delayed treatment in terms of both patient suffering and health care dollars, there is good reason to act urgently," Associate Professor Callen says.

"Opting for some kind of 'patient-direct' notification system may ensure patients get the information they need to seek treatment as soon as possible. This would go some way to giving responsibility for their own health."

Explore further: Researchers say patients leave ER with poor understanding of how to care for themselves

Related Stories

Researchers say patients leave ER with poor understanding of how to care for themselves

January 25, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- In a new review article, researchers at the University of Toronto, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Children’s Hospital Boston have found there frequently is a lack of patient-family ...

Review of stroke treatment could save lives

September 30, 2011
Doctors are underutilising crucial medication to prevent deadly strokes in those with a common type of heart condition, new research says, leading to fresh calls for a review of current treatment strategies and more research ...

Study finds most paramedics are victims of abuse in the workplace

December 29, 2011
More than two-thirds of paramedics surveyed have experienced verbal, physical or sexual abuse on the job, new research has found.

Recommended for you

Moderate coffee drinking 'more likely to benefit health than to harm it', say experts

November 22, 2017
Drinking coffee is "more likely to benefit health than to harm it" for a range of health outcomes, say researchers in The BMJ today.

When traveling on public transport, you may want to cover your ears

November 22, 2017
The noise levels commuters are exposed to while using public transport or while biking, could induce hearing loss if experienced repeatedly and over long periods of time, according to a study published in the open access ...

Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses

November 22, 2017
Different types of alcohol elicit different emotional responses, but spirits are most frequently associated with feelings of aggression, suggests research published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Air pollution linked to poorer quality sperm

November 22, 2017
Air pollution, particularly levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), is associated with poorer quality sperm, suggests research published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Sunrise and sunset guide daily activities of city-dwellers

November 21, 2017
Despite artificial lightning and social conventions, the dynamics of daylight still influence the daily activities of people living in modern, urban environments, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.