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New toolkit guides clinicians in handling lab test results

Thursday September 19, 2013
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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released a toolkit to help nurses, physicians and medical office staff improve their processes for tracking, reporting and following up with patients after medical laboratory tests.

The toolkit is part of the agency’s effort to make care safer for patients in all settings, according to a news release. AHRQ is a branch of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

About 40% of primary care office visits involve some type of diagnostic medical test provided on site or at a laboratory, according to the news release. However, if test results are lost, incorrect or incomplete, the wrong treatment may be prescribed and patient harm can occur.

“Improving Your Office Testing Process: Toolkit for Rapid-Cycle Patient Safety and Quality Improvement” offers step-by-step instructions on how to evaluate an office testing process, identify areas where improvement is needed and address those areas. Practical tools are included that can be used to assess office readiness, plan activities, engage patients, audit efforts and incorporate electronic health records. The toolkit also includes a template for practices to ensure that laboratory test results are communicated effectively to patients in English or Spanish.

The toolkit was developed by a team of researchers led by Milton “Mickey” Eder, PhD, director of research and evaluation at Access Community Health Network in Chicago, a large network of community health centers. A national panel of primary care experts contributed, and the toolkit was tested in the Access network.

“The toolkit was developed in a network of federally qualified health centers, but studies indicate that all types of primary care offices experience problems managing tests,” Eder said in a news release. “Clinicians and staff handle a lot of lab test results, and unfortunately mistakes happen. Results can get lost or misreported or patients may not understand how to follow up, and sometimes these mistakes can have serious consequences.”

Toolkit information: www.ahrq.gov/professionals/quality-patient-safety/quality-resources/tools/ambulatory-care/office-testing-toolkit.


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