4 reasons to re-evaluate your management of critical test results

There is an unfortunate pattern occurring in healthcare today. Physicians order diagnostic tests for their patients (CT scans, MRI exams, mammograms, various blood tests, COVID-19 tests, and more) to aid with diagnosis. At the same time, these test results are often not reaching the right clinicians quickly enough. Radiologists and laboratorians are challenged trying to find and connect with ordering physicians. As a result, nurses often function as go-betweens to connect these test results to the appropriate care providers. This wastes time and energy, frustrating everyone, including patients, nurses, and providers. Critical results even can be delayed or sent to the wrong provider, significantly impacting the time to diagnosis and treatment.

Although there is excellent technology for reviewing and diagnosing clinical conditions, the process for communicating these results to the right care providers on a timely basis is often problematic. Figuring out who to alert and how to contact them can be challenging, leading to a breakdown in the process, and ultimately the patient may suffer as a result. Here are four reasons why it may be time to take a closer look at your test result communication workflow.

1. Patient care may be suffering

Definitive test results can mean everything when patients are in the hospital worrying about what’s happening to them. Every minute counts when it comes to having clinical tests interpreted and the results sent to the ordering physician. In the case of critical lab or radiology results, the faster the results are relayed, the faster the treatment can begin. Even for normal results, quick delivery can provide peace of mind for patients or help providers rule out different clinical scenarios in their efforts to diagnose a specific condition. Of course, during a health crisis like a pandemic, delays in relaying test results can lead to further spread of disease.

2. Physicians, nurses, and staff are wasting time they can’t spare

Delays in clinical test results communication are unnecessary and unacceptable with today’s technology. Both critical and routine results need to be delivered promptly to physicians to enhance their ability to treat patients and prevent delays in treatment. An automated method of communicating test results eliminates the frustration associated with time wasted on phone calls to radiology and lab, giving all involved precious time back to deliver optimal patient care. As staff time is expensive and doctors and nurses are practicing at the top of their licenses, this is something every hospital needs to evaluate. It has bottom-line consequences.

Your hospital or health system needs a solution that is flexible. It needs to fit into your existing workflow pattern and truly support staff, versus making things more difficult with slow and unwieldy processes. Secure, traceable results that come to a smartphone or other protected device are more efficient and easier for all involved.

3. The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goal #2 and other directives

The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goal 02.03.01 states: Report critical results of tests and diagnostic procedures on a timely basis. The American College of Radiology and College of American Pathologists have similar standards. Having an audit trail is critical, as is the ability to send encrypted test results to a smartphone, tablet, or other device. Closed loop communication which documents results in the EHR is also an emerging requirement. In addition, HIPAA and the HITECH Act have guidelines for maintaining the security of patient information in a mobile device-driven world. A clinical test result communication system that has powerful analytics and report generation capabilities can help prepare you for Joint Commission inspections and documentation compliance.

4. Delays in patient discharge impact the overall length of stay

As hospitals migrate from fee-for-service to value-based care, reducing the lengths of patient stays is more valuable than ever. An automated process for quickly alerting ordering physicians about a normal test result means a patient could be discharged sooner, whether from the ED or inpatient setting. Improving hospital bed turnover rates is an important initiative for many hospitals, and faster communication among staff helps meet this goal.

Technology can help

As with many current hospital workflows, technology has become essential due to the sheer volume of information that needs to be reviewed, sent, archived, and protected. The idea is to find critical test results communication software which supports your physicians, nurses, radiologists, and laboratorians throughout the full test result process. Ease of communication is key at every step. Customization is important. Inflexible workflows predefined by vendors will frustrate staff and cause more problems in the long run.

There are significant risks for hospitals which do not have effective processes for reporting critical test results on a timely basis. Failure to communicate the right information, to the right member of the care team, at the right time, can lead to patient harm, frustrate already overworked staff, and increase costs. Having a strong critical test results communication platform helps improve patient care and safety. It can also enhance physician, nurse, and staff productivity, which is more critical than ever in the current environment.

Topic: Clinical communication platform