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

Higher manganese levels in children correlate with lower IQ scores, study finds

September 21, 2017
A study led by environmental health researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine finds that children in East Liverpool, Ohio with higher levels of Manganese (Mn) had lower IQ scores. The research appears ...

Researchers see popular herbicide affecting health across generations

September 20, 2017
First, the good news. Washington State University researchers have found that a rat exposed to a popular herbicide while in the womb developed no diseases and showed no apparent health effects aside from lower weight.

Higher levels of fluoride in pregnant woman linked to lower intelligence in their children

September 20, 2017
Fluoride in the urine of pregnant women shows a correlation with lower measures of intelligence in their children, according to University of Toronto researchers who conducted the first study of its kind and size to examine ...

One e-cigarette with nicotine leads to adrenaline changes in nonsmokers' hearts

September 20, 2017
A new UCLA study found that healthy nonsmokers experienced increased adrenaline levels in their heart after one electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) with nicotine but there were no increased adrenaline levels when the study ...

India has avoided 1 million child deaths since 2005, new study concludes

September 19, 2017
India has avoided about 1 million deaths of children under age five since 2005, driven by significant reductions in mortality from pneumonia, diarrhea, tetanus and measles, according to new research published today.

Gulf spill oil dispersants associated with health symptoms in cleanup workers

September 19, 2017
Workers who were likely exposed to dispersants while cleaning up the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill experienced a range of health symptoms including cough and wheeze, and skin and eye irritation, according to scientists ...

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.