Endoscopy center improves reporting of test results

The Endoscopy Center of Colorado Springs (CO) has won a national award for its improved system of reporting and explaining pathology results to patients.

The program is a winner of a 2008 Innovations in Quality Improvement Award presented by the Institute for Quality Improvement at the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC).

The goals of the program are to reduce the number of patients who don't receive their test results or don't follow up for needed tests or procedures, as well as to make pathology reports understandable and meaningful for patients. "Our old reporting system relied on phone calls to patients," said Monica Clayton, CGRN, director of the center. "Often, when a message was left, the patient did not return the call, and there was no system to guarantee that all patients received their results and recommendations for follow-up."

Survey shows improvement

Before they implemented the new system, 23% of their patients did not receive their pathology results. Of these, only 40% understood the results, and only 25% remembered when they were due for a follow-up visit. "One year following implementation of our new reporting system, the last survey of 30 patients included in our study found that 100% of them received their pathology reports, were well informed of the results, and knew their recommended follow-up dates," Clayton said.

Mismanaging patient test results "is a subtle but common error in medical care," she said. "When the results of diagnostic tests are allowed to fall through the cracks, harmful delays in treatment or diagnosis can occur."

5 steps to better handling of test results

The new system developed by the endoscopy center includes these steps:

  • Cross-referencing a daily pathology list and the specimen log book to ensure that both lists are 100% accurate. The daily pathology list then is used by the office to confirm that all pathology reports have been received.
  • Development of a letter that reports pathology results and recommends appropriate follow-up for physicians to fill out and mail to their patients.
  • Development of consumer-friendly language for physicians to use when filling out letters to patients.
  • Coordination with office staff to ensure that letters are sent to all patients on the pathology list and that a copy of the letter is sent to each patient's referring physician.
  • Referencing the specimen log to confirm that the endoscopy center has received the pathology results and patient letter and that all results are placed on the patient's chart.