Failed test follow-up spurs investment into e-health

Investment in e-health may reduce high rates of missed test results in patients discharged from hospital to primary care, an Australian expert says.  

A systematic review of 12 studies involving over 60,000 patient records, mainly from the US, found up to three out of four hospital tests don’t get followed up.

A lack of follow-up of test results ranged from 20% to 62% for inpatients and 1% to 75% for patients treated in emergency departments. 

The repercussions for patients included missed diagnoses of cancer and hypothyroidism, and a positive chlamydia test where the patient subsequently developed pelvic inflammatory disease.  

While no system – paper-based, electronic or hybrid – appeared worse than another, the authors said research suggested fully electronic systems led to fewer errors.

Electronic discharge summaries were faster but ideally should provide secure access for doctors in hospital