Does health information technology improve acknowledgement of radiology results for discharged Emergency Department patients? A before and after study

Julie Li*, Richard Paoloni, Ling Li, Joanne Callen, Johanna I. Westbrook, William B. Runciman, Andrew Georgiou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
43 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The inadequate follow-up of test results is a key patient safety concern, carrying severe consequences for care outcomes. Patients discharged from the emergency department are at particular risk of having test results pending at discharge due to their short lengths of stay, with many hospitals acknowledging that they do not have reliable systems for managing such results. Health information technology hold the potential to reducing errors in the test result management process. This study aimed to measure changes in the proportion of acknowledged radiology reports pre and post introduction of an electronic result acknowledgement system and to determine the proportion of reports with abnormal results, including clinically significant abnormal results requiring follow-up action. Methods: A before and after study was conducted in the emergency department of a 450-bed metropolitan teaching hospital in Australia. All radiology reports for discharged patients for a one-month period before and after implementation of the electronic result acknowledgement system were reviewed to determine; i) those that reported abnormal results; ii) evidence of test result acknowledgement. All unacknowledged radiology results with an abnormal finding were assessed by an independent panel of two senior emergency physicians for clinical significance. Results: Of 1654 radiology reports in the pre-implementation period 70.6% (n = 1167) had documented evidence of acknowledgement by a clinician. For reports with abnormal results, 71.6% (n = 396) were acknowledged. Of 157 unacknowledged abnormal radiology reports reviewed by an independent emergency physician panel, 34.4% (n = 54) were identified as clinically significant and 50% of these (n = 27) were deemed to carry a moderate likelihood of patient morbidity if not followed up. Electronic acknowledgement occurred for all radiology reports in the post period (n = 1423), representing a 30.4% (95% CI: 28.1-32.6%) increase in acknowledgement rate, and an increase of 28.4% (95% CI: 24.6-32.2%) for abnormal radiology results. Conclusions: The findings of this study demonstrate the potential of health information technology to improve the safety and effectiveness of the diagnostic process by increasing the rate of follow up of results pending at hospital discharge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Duty to recontact
  • Evaluation studies
  • Medical errors
  • Medical informatics
  • Radiology


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