Patient groups, clinicians and healthcare professionals agree - all test results need to be seen, understood and followed up
Background: Diagnostic testing provides integral information for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of disease. Inadequate test result reporting and follow-up is a major risk to patient safety. Factors contributing to failure to follow-up test results include unclear delineation of responsibility about who is meant to act on a test result; poor coordination across different levels of care; and the absence of integrated health information systems for the efficient information communication.
Methods: A 2016 Australian Stakeholder Forum brought together over 30 representatives from 14 different consumer, clinical and management stakeholder organisations to discuss safe and effective test result communication, management and follow-up. Thematic analysis was conducted drawing on multimodal data collected in the form of observational fieldnotes and document artefacts produced by participants.
Results: The forum identified major challenges which pose immediate risks to patient safety. Participants recommended priorities for addressing issues relating to: (i) the governance of test result management processes; (ii) integration of health care processes through the utilisation of effective digital health solutions; and (iii) involving patients as key partners in the decision-making and care process.
Conclusions: Stakeholder groups diverged slightly in their priorities. Consumers highlighted the lack of patient involvement in the test result management process but were less concerned about standardisation of reports and critical result thresholds than pathologists. The forum foregrounded the need for a systems approach, capable of identifying and addressing interconnections and multiple factors that contribute to poor test result follow-up, with a strong emphasis on enhancing the contribution of patients.