2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston 2018. The results of medical laboratory testing are only useful if they lead to appropriate actions by medical practitioners and/or patients. An underappreciated component of the medical testing process is the transfer of the information from the laboratory report into the reader's brain. The format of laboratory reports can be determined by the testing laboratory, which may issue a formatted report, or by electronic systems receiving information from laboratories and controlling the report format. As doctors can receive information from many laboratories, interpreting information from reports in a safe and rapid manner is facilitated by having similar report layouts and formats. Using Australia as an example, there is a wide variation in report formats in spite of a body of work to define standards for reporting. In addition to standardising of report formats, consideration needs to be given to optimisation of report formatting to facilitate rapid and unambiguous reading of the report and also interpretation of the data. Innovative report formats have been developed by some laboratories; however, wide adoption has not followed. The need to balance uniformity of reporting with appropriate innovation is a challenge for safe reporting of laboratory results. This paper discusses the current status and opportunity for improvement in safety and efficiency of the reading of laboratory reports, using current practise and developments in Australia as examples.