The impact for patient outcomes of failure to follow up on test results. How can we do better?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The World Health Organization-World Alliance for Patient Safety has identified test result management as a priority area. Poor test result follow-up can have major consequences for the quality of care, including missed diagnoses and suboptimal patient outcomes. Over the last three decades there has been considerable growth in the number of requests for pathology and radiology services which has added to the complexity of how patient care is delivered and test results are managed. This can contribute to a lack of clarity about where and with whom responsibility for test follow-up should reside: a problem that is compounded by a lack of clear definitions about what are critical, unexpected or significantly abnormal results.

AIM OF THIS PAPER: This paper will present a narrative review highlighting key issues related to the problem of failure to follow up laboratory test results, and outline potential solutions.

CONCLUSIONS: Information technology (IT) has the potential to enhance the performance and safety of test result management processes. Effective solutions must engage all stakeholders, including consumers, in arriving at decisions about who needs to receive results, how and when they are communicated, and how they are acknowledged and acted upon and the documentation of these actions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-46
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


  • patient safety
  • test result follow-up
  • quality improvement
  • diagnostic tests
  • patient access to records
  • health information systems
  • laboratory information systems
  • medical order entry systems


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